Young and old put their best feet forward in medical research fundraiser
Age is no barrier and to prove it, Alan O’Toole was the first to finish the gruelling 27km Coastal Track section of the Michael Tynan Memorial Challenge.
At 73, Mr O’Toole was the oldest person to take up the challenge and certainly the fittest. He was first over the line at all three checkpoints – Garie, Wattamolla and ferry wharf finish line.
The youngest walker,12-year-old Georgie Greig, finished among the top 20 walkers less than an hour behind Mr O’Toole.
Walking and running the Coastal Track is nothing new for Mr O’Toole, a regular with Billy’s Bushies, a Saturday morning institution among Sutherland Shire’s running fraternity. Having a thick hide and a sense of humour are necessities for membership in the Bushies and Mr O’Toole has both in spades.
A porter at St George Hospital, where he picks up and delivers cancer patients to their chemotherapy appointments, Mr O’Toole signed up to raise money for St George and Sutherland Medical Research Foundation and to get in a bit of training for an even bigger challenge next weekend, the 4 Peaks Alpine Climb at Bright, Victoria.
For Cronulla MP Mark Speakman, the Challenge was an opportunity to see first hand how the $9 million allocated to upgrade the Coastal Track over the next three years is being spent.
“This is one of the great walks of the world,” Mr Speakman said.
The walkers set off about 7am on Saturday and the first three walkers crossed the finish line in just over six hours and the last in just over eight.
On Sunday morning they regrouped at Rydges Cronulla for breakfast and the walk to Westfield Miranda and Hazelhurst Regional Art Gallery where they were joined by the Hon. Scott Morrison Member for Cook and Federal Treasurer. Once at Hazelhurst, they pressed hand prints into canvas for a painting which will be auctioned on November 18 at the joint Tynan Motors 50th anniversary in business and SSMRF fundraising dinner.
A highlight of the rest stop was Sharks captain Paul Gallan, who arrived with teammate Luke Lewis bearing Rugby League’s most cherished prize, the Provan-Summons Trophy.
After stops at Tynan dealerships at Kirrawee, Sutherland and Miranda, the walkers headed over the Captain Cook Bridge to the Novotel Brighton Beach Hotel, where they dispersed, perhaps to do it all again next year.
Cancer survivor Rob Stanley-Jones was keen to do the walk again next year.
“I have met some wonderful people today, all raising money for the greatest cause in the world, medical research which helps keep us alive,” Mr Stanley-Jones said.
“I want to congratulate Madeline Tynan for her seamless organisation of the Memorial Challenge. I’ll be doing it again next year.’’
Two other parts of the Challenge included a canoe race from Wollongong Harbour to Bundeena and a car rally.
St.George Bank staged a movie night at the end of the first day at Southern Districts football ground, with walkers sleeping in tents on the field before setting off on the Shire walk in the morning.
The event was proudly supported by major sponsors Optus, The Leader, Illawarra Mercury, St.George Bank and University of Wollongong.