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Walking Kokoda for Autism Awareness

7-17 October 2011

In October 2011, a group of individuals with connections to Autism Spectrum Disorders took part in the challenge of a lifetime to raise awareness and money for Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASDs).

The group walked the famous Kokoda Trail in Papua New Guinea, battling challenging weather conditions over a ten day walk as they trek 96 kilometres overland.

The group raised funds for the 1000 Book Campaign which increased the resources in the Autism Library.

Read one family’s story here

Walking Kokoda in the Media

Mornington Peninsula Leader: 28 June 2011

The Port Report Issue 212: June 2011

The Courier: June 2011

Mansfield Courier: June 2011

Read About the Trekkers

Rebecca Appleton Mother of children with ASD

Living with Autism is a challenge facing so many families. I am lucky to be the very proud mother of amazing seven-year-old twin boys with Autism and a 10-year-old daughter who would have to be the best sister in the world!

My quest is to not only raise funds for Autism Victoria but to increase awareness and understanding in the community for families such as mine. I urge people to embrace diversity and difference… and to realise that although unconventional at times, Autism has an enormous amount to teach us about our own humanity.

To donate to Rebecca, click here

Stacey Aroutzidis Autism Victoria Staff Member

As a Family Counsellor at Autism Victoria and through previous work with children on the spectrum I have developed a strong passion for this great cause. Individuals with an Autism Spectrum Disorder and their families are what have inspired me to embark on this journey. Witnessing people’s courage and strength has given me a different perspective on life and its’ challenges. I hope that this journey will inspire others and help share a better understanding and most importantly a greater awareness of ASDs. Please share your generosity and show your support to help create the motivation and endurance that will make this journey a mighty one!

To donate to Stacey, click here


Stratos Aroutzidis

I was hoping to walk the Kokoda Trek in 2011 to raise funds and help create the largest ASD-specific library in the southern hemisphere and to raise awareness for people with Autism Spectrum Disorders and to help those who face the everyday challenges of raising a child with ASD by providing as much information as possible through books, and other resources.

If it wasn’t for my sister Stacey I wouldn’t know about this disorder, so with the help of my sister and the rest of the team I would like to raise awareness and promote a further understanding of ASDs. Please help me help Autism Victoria!

I’ve enjoyed being part of this journey. Unfortunately I am no longer able to complete Kokoda but I would like to wish the team all the very best!

To donate to Stratos, click here

Nicole Comerford Special Education Teacher

Working with individuals with ASD has been my life passion and the only thing I’ve ever wanted to do.  I grew up volunteering and working for Mansfield Autistic Centre which is now known as Mansfield Autism Statewide Service.  After working at a specialist autistic school in Melbourne I spent two years working for Autism Victoria as the Learning and Development Team Leader. I am now the Student Welfare Coordinator at Albany Rise Primary School.

I’ve studied, I’ve worked, I’ve lived and breathed ASD, so the only thing left to do is walk for it.

To donate to Nicole, click here

Lisa Dowling Mother of child with ASD

I am walking Kokoda so that I can do my small part in raising awareness and helping to assist Autism Victoria.

Being a parent of a child with ASD is an ongoing work in progress but one that I will never give up on!

Let the passion begin!

To donate to Lisa, click here

Trevor Ah Hang Individual with ASD

My father and I could never see ‘eye to eye’, the closer we tried to become the harder it was, like two magnets being forced together. My father died several years ago and not long after that, maybe four years or so, I was diagnosed with an ASD (Autistic Spectrum Disorder), Asperger’s Syndrome. I have been on a Disability Support Pension since early 2005. My father was posted to fight in Papua New Guinea during the 2nd World War to deny access to the track. The reason I wanted to do the walk was to gain some understanding of what he had to endure as he experienced life (and death) on the Kokoda track, and though my experience will come nowhere near to what he had to go through, I feel that it might in some way bring me closer to him. I also wanted to succeed in doing the walk for my own sake in having achieved such a challenging goal. Finally the added benefit of it is to raise awareness of Autism to the wider community, as I have to live each challenging day with it.

Unfortunately I am no longer able to do the trek but the journey has already been a great experience and I hope that the team succeeds.

To donate to Trevor, click here

Matthew Hore Father of child with ASD

I am walking the Kokoda trail for my son Josh who has an ASD and all the kids out there on the Spectrum. Josh has received wonderful support and continues to amaze us with his progress. If we’re just talking about Autism it’s a good thing! With more awareness and support our kids will have the best chance in life. I really hope as a team we can achieve more awareness and raise lots of money.

To donate to Matthew, click here

Tara Hore Aunt of child with ASD

Profile coming soon

To donate to Tara, click here

Paul Lalor Friend of family affected by ASD

I am doing this walk to show my support and admiration for my good friend Gerard who has three children with ASD. Gerard and his wife Cath are doing a wonderful job raising their kids and giving them every opportunity in life. I hope in doing this that I will do my small part to raise awareness and funds for Autism Victoria.

To donate to Paul, click here

Anthony Mithen Friend of family affected by ASD

I will be walking the Kokoda trail next year to raise awareness and funds for families living with autism spectrum disorders. My good friends Gerard and Cathlin Sheridan have 3 children with autism and they have inspired me to take up the challenge of walking Kokoda for Autism Victoria.

I know Kokoda won’t be easy but I am sure Gerard and Cathlin will throw themselves into this challenge as they do with every challenge they face. I hope to enjoy the journey with them and with the rest of the Autism Victoria team. Any support you can offer this worthwhile cause will be greatly appreciated.

To donate to Anthony, click here

Kelly O’Brien Educational Psychologist

Kelly is an Educational Psychologist currently working at Toorak College Mount Eliza. Kelly holds great admiration for Autism Victoria and the services and support they provide for families across the state of Victoria and beyond. Autism is close to Kelly’s heart; having worked closely with children with Autism Spectrum Disorders for 8 years and conducting research in the area, Kelly has a comprehensible understanding of the importance of services like Autism Victoria for families, professionals, children and the broader community. There will be no rock, leech or hill that will deter Kelly from this journey, which begins now and will be assisted with the heartfelt generosity of people who wish to support this remarkable cause.

To donate to Kelly, click here

Lee Peever Parent of child with ASD

I am a mother of my son Landon who has ASD and I wanted to walk the Kokoda trek for him and to help raise awareness. I also think it is a personal walk with myself as I have gone through a lot this year.

Unfortunately I am unable to do the trek but I wish the whole team all the best for a great adventure. It’s been a really good journey during the preparation.

To donate to Lee, click here

Scott Pittaway

This is going to be my biggest adventure and the hardest but it is nothing in comparison to the difficulties that people living with an ASD face every day, so please get on board and help a very worthy cause!!

To donate to Scott, click here

Stacy Shepherd Educational Psychologist

I will be walking the Kokoda track in October 2011 to raise awareness for Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASD) and to raise money for the library at Autism Victoria. I chose to take on this challenge because I feel strongly about helping children diagnosed with an ASD. I am an Educational and Developmental Psychologist who works closely in the assessment and intervention of children diagnosed with an ASD. I hope my journey will make the general public more aware of this disorder and its impact on families and children. I anticipate the walk to be challenging but will be a walk in the park compared to living with an ASD or caring for a child with an ASD.

To donate to Stacy, click here

Gerard Sheridan Father of child with ASD

Cathlin and I have 3 beautiful children, Rian aged 12 years, Kayla 10 years and Emily 8 years. All three have Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD).  Rian, Kayla and Emily are my inspiration for doing this trek. They are so brave and overcome so many obstacles every day of their lives. They have come so far.  Cathlin and I have always done everything together to provide the best opportunities for our children and indeed we are both participating in this walk to push for better awareness and understanding of ASD in the community and to help raise funds for the 1000 book campaign that will assist families like ours.

To donate to Gerard, click here

Cathlin Sheridan Mother of child with ASD

Raising 3 children with Autism has been at times overwhelming and challenging. There has been many meltdowns, heartbreaking and frustrating times. However I wouldn’t change it for a minute. The rewards and the love my children give me is all I need to keep going. And this will also keep me going on the Kokoda challenge. What a wonderful opportunity to help raise funds for Autism Victoria, an invaluable organisation for anyone who has a child with Autism.

To donate to Cathlin, click here

Paul Sheridan Uncle of child with ASD

I am walking in support of my brother and his wife who are working so hard every day to raise their three autistic children to be wonderful independent, confident individuals.

On the flipside, I met a single mother a couple of years ago who was struggling on a daily basis to raise her autistic boy all on her own. She was not aware that there was support available from organisations such as Autism Victoria and financial support from the government.

If we can help change one person’s life then it was all worth it.

To donate to Paul, click here

Sarah Welsh Registered Nurse

I’m participating in the Kokoda walk to raise awareness of ASD. I have had exposure in both my personal and professional life (as a registered nurse) of what it would be like to live with a disability and/or be part of a family with a disabled member. I have been very saddened at times at the desperate state at which some people present for help. I would like to learn more about the available resources for families in the community and why some people are pushed to the absolute limit before getting the assistance that they need to overcome their challenges.

I’d like to think that families weren’t suffering in silence, but I’m absolutely certain some are, I’ve seen it. It is my wish that the knowledge of ASD is increased in the community providing a feeling of understanding by the community for those families that feel alone. People should be working together to support one another. No one should be battling alone.

To donate to Sarah, click here