The trek that changes lives

Brendan Johnson will pull on his best hiking boots and walk for five days in the Northern Territory to raise money so sick kids can have wishes.


Brendan's own journey

When his knees ache and his feet feel like they are on fire during the 223km trek of the Larapinta Trail, Brendan Johnson can draw upon his own resilience reserves.

Brendan, who will tackle Larapinta this year to raise money for Make-A-Wish, has had cancers removed from his face and body.

Brendan said facing such surgeries “plays on your mind a lot”.

In recent weeks he’s also had cancer removed from his eyebrows. But nothing will deter him from packing his walking shoes and heading to the Northern Territory for this year’s trek.

“I can assure you nothing will stop me from helping the kids of Make-A-Wish in a way that I really enjoy by going on yet another exciting and very rewarding adventure on the Larapinta trail,” Brendan said.


The power of a wish

A big motivation for Brendan to raise money is the sick kids he has met in his capacity as a Make-A-Wish volunteer for the Newcastle Branch.

His understanding of the power of a wish goes back to the first wish he was involved in as a volunteer for the Sydney North Branch.

Brendan was visiting the house of a sick girl whose wish was to go to the Gold Coast.

“The smile on her face when we presented her with her plane tickets is something I’ll never forget,” he said.

“I’ve never seen anyone happier than in that moment. It was eye-opening for me.

“You go through your own struggles, but they are nothing compared to what these kids have to face.”

Brendan said going through his own cancer surgeries had increased his empathy for wish kids.

“I guess I just have a greater empathy for the uncertainty they face,” he said.

“One of my branch’s kids needs a lung and liver transplant – it just makes me very aware of how their mental state must be.

“It’s important to be as positive as possible for these wish kids. And the wish is something positive for them to focus on.”

Scenic trek

'It’ll be an experience you’ll remember forever'

The Larapinta Trail winds 223km along the West MacDonnell Ranges in the Northern Territory.

Brendan, who made his first trek in 2016 before following up again in 2021, said the trail offers some of the most scenic landscapes in Australia.

“We were also lucky last year in that it was wet and gorges were full, and we were able to swim every one of the five days,” he said.

“The water is cool at the end of the day, and it refreshes your muscles and feet and helps you prepare for the next day.”

Brendan said participants need to have good shoes, walking poles and the ability to walk up to six hours a day for five days. He said if you can do 10,000 steps in a day, that’s a good guide that you can thrive on the trek.

“You’ll get more out of doing the trek than you think,” Brendan said.

“You can be worried about hitting your fundraising target, you can be concerned about your knees and joints and all this other stuff, but once you get through it, it will penetrate right into your core, and it’ll be an experience you’ll remember forever.  

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