14 March 2024

650 hikers to scale Kosciuszko to raise funds for fight against rare cancers

| Albert McKnight
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Shane Fritchley

Long-time Perisher Ski Patrol volunteer Shane Fritchley died in 2020, aged just 35. Photo: Supplied.

This weekend, 650 people will hike to the top of Australia’s tallest mountain over two days to raise funds for the fight against rare cancers, including the one that tragically took the life of a “brilliant” Perisher Ski Patrol volunteer.

Those joining the Kosi Challenge will start at Thredbo, then hike up Mount Kosciuszko and back in a 21-km round trip on Friday and Saturday (15 and 16 March) to raise funds for Rare Cancers Australia and its patient support programs.

One of this year’s hikers is 50-year-old Kellie Franken, who is climbing in honour of her neighbour, close friend and ski patrol volunteer Shane Fritchley, who died in 2020 from stage 4a colorectal cancer, aged just 35.

“I have seen with Shane and his family first-hand what this horrendous disease does, and having patients supported through [their] programs is motivational for all participants in the Kosi Challenge,” Ms Franken said.

“We hope that the awareness and fundraising achieved by myself and our team, the World Courier Wanderers, will help patients and their families. Just like Shane’s family.”

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She said Mr Fritchley was from southern Sydney, but every year from the age of five he would spend time in the Snowy Mountains and became a volunteer in the ski patrol from his early 20s. He helped many people on the mountain with rescues and first aid.

“Shane was cheeky, funny and always the life of the party,” Ms Franken said.

“He was also adventurous, and an amazing skier, just brilliant to watch. He skied the slopes of the mountains here in Perisher and the world, but his heart was here at Kosi.

“Even some of his ashes are scattered here on the mountains.”

In Mr Fritchley’s blog, he wrote:

“Chemotherapy is a rotten drug when you think about what it’s trying to do, therefore the side effects were aplenty, they differed from week to week. I had to come to terms with this being my life for the foreseeable future, I was now living with cancer, and I wasn’t going to be able to lead my normal life. I made a decision early on that I’m not about to roll over, I’m going to keep doing everything I would normally do until my body tells me otherwise.”

Kellie Franken will be hiking from Thredbo to the top of Australia's tallest mountain this weekend.

Kellie Franken will be hiking from Thredbo to the top of Australia’s tallest mountain this weekend. Photo: Supplied.

When asked what advice she had for someone else supporting a friend or loved one who was starting their cancer journey, Ms Franken suggested supporting the family with a meal, mowing the lawns or giving a hug.

“It was Shane’s wish to go overseas for a clinical trial; supporting the awareness and fundraising of his wish and sharing this with our community helped him achieve this trip on not one but two occasions,” she said.

Ms Franken said she hoped to help improve awareness of rare cancers in Australia and to ensure all patients received support and treatment like that of more common cancers.

“People come to Kosi because they have a connection to the cause; they’re either climbing in memory of someone they’ve lost, or because they know someone with a rare cancer, or they themselves have a rare cancer,” she said.

“It’s a wonderful community-focused event and I think that people return year upon year with bigger teams because they want to share the experience and also raise awareness.”

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Ms Franken said younger people were getting diagnosed with aggressive cancers and early detection was the key.

“Rare Cancers Australia support people diagnosed with these aggressive and more rare forms of cancer by providing programs that make a positive impact on the patient and their loved ones,” she said.

She said the money raised on the challenge would go to Rare Cancers Australia to help their specialist cancer navigators support more patients diagnosed with rare cancer, including by giving financial support to patients so they could travel to their treatment or pay for overnight accommodation.

To support Ms Franken in her Kosi Challenge, visit her fundraising page here.

The Kosi Challenge is Rare Cancers Australia’s major fundraising event, held in March each year since 2013. For more information on the organisation and its challenge, click here.

Original Article published by Albert McKnight on About Regional.

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