Matthew Flinders Anglican College student Ben O'Connor is training to hike the Himalayas to fund vital cancer research.
Matthew Flinders Anglican College student Ben O'Connor is training to hike the Himalayas to fund vital cancer research.

Matthew Flinders student finds his ‘Everest’ passion early

WELVE-year-old Ben O'Connor is nowhere near reaching his peak in life but he is determined to achieve one mountainous task in front of him.

The Matthew Flinders Anglican College Year 7 student (pictured right) is taking it step by step to reach a mammoth fundraising project with a $64,760 target.

Summit for Sarcoma is a daring physical and mental challenge that involves Ben, with his father Andrew O'Connor by his side, climbing the 6476m-high Mera Peak in the Himalayas in October this year.

The goal is to raise money for research into a rare form of childhood cancer, Osteosarcoma, which a person close to Ben is suffering.

The youngster is close to achieving his fundraising target which amounts to $10 for every metre he will climb - but he needs the community's help to raise the final $8000.

Less than 1 per cent of cancer research funding is allocated towards sarcoma and yet this rare group of cancers makes up 20 per cent of cancers in children, and predominantly in males.

Andrew and Ben will personally fund the challenge so that all extra proceeds will benefit QIMR Berghofer Medical Research Institute and help Dr Mark Smyth continue his vital research into finding a cure.

Ben has committed to a tough training schedule that involves daily hikes on Mt Coolum's 1.6km return track in preparation for his climb in the Himalayas.

Training also includes regular gym sessions. A generous Flinders family has helped out with a gym membership and exercise physiology support.

While most people would find this challenge remarkable for a child of his young age, this is not the first time Ben has embarked upon a gruelling mountain trek.

In December 2017, Ben and his dad completed a trek in Nepal's Everest region up to a village called Dingboche.

This two-week feat was Ben's first experience trekking at higher altitudes and proved his ability to undertake physically demanding challenges.

It also helped him to imagine the challenges a person battling cancer faces every day.

Ben answers some questions about his challenge and motivation:

Q. What does your training schedule involve to help you get fit for the hike?

We run up and down Lara Drive Steps in Buderim during the week and climb Mt Coolum three to four times on a weekend.

 

Q. Does your training change the closer you get to the hike date?

Yes, the training gets more intense as we become closer to the date we leave.

We have been training seven days a week in the months leading up to the climb.

 

Q. What are you learning about yourself as you go about this project?

I've learnt that I have much more potential than I thought.

I've also realised that people are so generous with their donations and care a lot about finding a cure for sarcoma.

 

Q. What is your message to other young people about setting goals and following your passion?

It's good to set a challenge, work hard and give it a go.

 

Q. Do you have any words of advice about how it feels to have a hobby or passion outside of your school commitments to focus on that lights you up?

Being in the mountains makes me feel alive.

I am really looking forward to reaching the summit.

 

Q. How is your college community helping you to achieve this project, and who else in your life is supporting you on this journey?

My teacher at Flinders, Patrick Morrow, has been very supportive in helping me reach the school community.

Flinders encourages students to achieve more and to give back to our community and to people in need.

My dad is helping me get out of my comfort zone and push myself.

 

Help Ben by donating at https://activeqimrb.everydayhero.com/au/SFS2019



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