Two University of Tasmania alumni are among a team of five disabled men who have raised an amazing $22,470 through online crowd funding to fund shooting a video about their upcoming expedition across Australia.
The group set a goal to raise $20,000 to film their world-first journey - riding human-powered tricycles over 2000km from Australia’s lowest point, Kati Thanda (Lake Eyre) to the highest point at the summit of Mount Kosciuszko (2228m).
The journey would be a challenge for any athlete, let alone for a team of men each with their own significant disabilities.
However in the spirit of bravery and camaraderie the team, which includes alumni Duncan Meerding (B Arts 2010) and Paul Pritchard (B Arts 2015) will start their adventure in September this year to show that people with ‘different abilities’ can achieve anything they set their minds to.
Alumni Paul and Duncan will be riding a tandem recumbent trike – working together to overcome the fact that Paul has Hemiplegia (paralysis on one vertical half of the body) and Duncan is legally blind.
"Being disabled does not mean you are unable. Everyone needs help sometimes and by helping each other on the ride, we will show that with a little help, everyone - disabled or not, is capable of extraordinary things. It's the journey of disability in a nutshell - uphill, hard, tough and ultimately rewarding!" Paul Pritchard said.
They will be joined on their journey by Walter Van Praag, who has a significantly reduced lung function due to Cystic Fibrosis, Daniel Kojta, who is paraplegic and will be using a hand-cycle, and Conrad Wainsborough, who has a spinal injury.
The team also intend to visit remote schools and communities during their journey, to talk to students and the broader community about living with a disability, and address the misconceptions about disability that arise in the media.
Recently featured on Australian Story, Paul, a former professional climber, is already recognised as an inspiration for his tremendous recovery from a climbing injury in 1998. Eighteen years after the catastrophic accident which left him partially paralysed, he returned to Tasmania’s ‘Totem Pole’, the climb where he originally sustained his injury, to find out if his recovery was sufficient to finish the climb.
The resulting experience, which is documented in the award-winning movie, Doing it Scared, was a highlight at this year’s Banff Mountain Film Festival and is now the subject of a national speaking tour, in which Paul will share his incredible triumph over adversity.
Organised by major sponsor World Expeditions the tour will help raise funds for the Lowest to Highest expedition.
A third alumni involved in the campaign is cinematographer Matthew Newton (B Fine Arts Hons, 2000), who alongside Catherine Pettman forms RUMMIN Productions – the creators of the Doing it Scared documentary.
Both Catherine and Matthew will travel alongside the riders during various legs of their journey to capture it on film and ultimately produce another documentary, which will undoubtedly inspire audiences everywhere.
The men will be blogging about their journey and carrying a GPS so supporters can track their expedition in real-time.