By Di Westaway | CEO and Founder of Wild Women On Top
Recently, as I stood at the finish line of Adelaide Coastrek, our first event in partnership with mental health charity Beyond Blue, I realised our business had found its true heart.
As the day rolled into evening, the moon rose over the ocean and hundreds of tired trekkers leapt across the finish line, I was being tossed from tears to tingles because a raw nerve had been exposed. Not just for me personally but for the suffering of my loved ones.
My grandfather took his own life, my dad struggled with depression for years, my aunty lives with bi-polar, my close friend had post-traumatic stress and my daughter has experienced anxiety and depression.
Many of our thirteen hundred hikers, their support teams and loving volunteers, had also experienced the impact of mental illness. In hiking for Beyond Blue, they were hiking for their own mental wellbeing while raising funds for mental health.
There was the amazing Naomi, a grandma who had travelled from the Gold Coast with eleven friends, who had lost her son to suicide. With her three teams, the TT Trekkers One, Two and Three, she raised over $45,000 for Beyond Blue. There was Noelene and her husband Pete, whose 27-year-old daughter Jess had taken her own life only three months prior. There were groups from Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane and Adelaide who were all walking to support friends, family members and each other.
Watching this and other similar stories unfold made me realise we’d found our purpose. Because among the tragedy and suffering there was hope. And there was the joy and camaraderie that comes from being proactive in helping ourselves and others. It felt positive because we were uniting to help those who often feel so hopeless. These women were facing fears and walking away anxiety, hopelessness, depression, desperation and overwhelm, and towards hope, resilience and recovery.
I realised an issue I’ve been passionate about for years had finally landed. It wasn’t all about fitness; it was about friends. And it wasn’t all about health; it was about hope.
There is power in mobilising, fundraising and coming together to support each other through times that are truly heartbreaking. That’s what this event was, and is, all about.
It showed me the immense power of walking to bring people together, lifting mood and healing hearts. Thousands of studies including those published by Harvard University show that walking just 30 minutes a day reduces your risk of heart disease, diabetes, obesity, stroke, Alzheimer’s, dementia, depression, anxiety and stress by up to 50%. And walking in nature, or hiking, has the added benefit of improving mood and memory while reducing rumination. But to see it in action was breathtaking. It was love in motion.
We need your help to inspire your family and friends to make walking a daily ritual and hiking a weekly ritual. We owe it to the 70% of Aussies who are languishing and the 25% of us who experience mental health issues. Hiking is our elixir. It can help heal mind, body and spirit as well as improving fitness, strength, agility, immunity and resilience. And by doing it together we bring back support and we bring back hope.
So grab your girl squad or someone who needs a little extra love, get in your activewear and do something with a powerful purpose - to make the world happier, healthier and more connected.