Flinders Student Ben O’Connor Hikes the Himalayas to Fund Vital Cancer Research

As Matthew Flinders Anglican College Year 7 student Ben O’Connor goes about his schooling week like any other 12-year-old – managing his schedule of study, co-curricular sports and quality time with family and friends – he is also working on a mammoth fundraising project that is close to reaching its $64,760 fundraising target – with your help.

‘Summit for Sarcoma’ is a daring physical and mental challenge that involves Ben, with his father, Andrew O’Connor, by his side, climbing the 6476 metre-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.

Ben is close to his fundraising target of $64,760 – $10 for every metre he will climb – but needs the community’s help to raise the final $8,000 to achieve his goal.

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

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

You can visit the project website here to make your contribution and support Ben’s family with achieving their big-hearted project.

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

Training also includes regular gym sessions as 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 trek 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.

We asked Ben some questions about his challenge and motivation:

Q: What does your training schedule involve to help you get fit for the hike?
Ben: We run up and down Lara Drive Steps in Buderim during the week and climb Mt Coolum 3-4 times on a weekend.

Q: Does your training change the closer you get to the hike date?
Ben: 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?
Ben: 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?
​Ben: 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? ​
Ben: 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? How does it feel to be so supported? ​
Ben: My teacher at Flinders, Mr 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.

We wish Ben and Andrew a safe and successful climb, and we encourage our school community and beyond to support this important project.

Please donate here: https://activeqimrb.everydayhero.com/au/SFS2019

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