By Kirra Grimes
CRAIG Tanner has done pretty well for someone who just a few months ago “couldn’t stand” walking and wasn’t very fit.
On Saturday, Craig finished his trek from Tugun in Queensland to his home town of Toora, having walked 1500km in around 35 days.
So, why would a man who used to drive when he could’ve walked to the shop to buy milk or bread put himself through such a thing?
Craig says it was his son Aaron’s battle with medulloblastoma – paediatric brain cancer – and the other sick children the Tanner family met along the way that inspired the feat.
Aaron was diagnosed in 2016 and was admitted to the Royal Children’s Hospital for treatment. During this time, Craig and his wife Hannah lived in Ronald McDonald House (RMH) in Parkville, finding much more than just a place to stay.
“You become a family,” Craig said of the people sharing the house, and sharing similar experiences of caring for sick loved-ones.
Aaron was declared cancer free earlier this year (though did have a scare earlier this month that saw Craig postpone his trek for two days), but Craig was so moved by the people he and Hannah met at RMH and the Royal Children’s that he was determined to do something to help other sick kids and their families.
Through his walk ‘Craig’s Ks for Cancer’, Craig has raised more than $15,000 for paediatric brain cancer research and RMH but he says his main goal was simply to raise awareness of the many children and families fighting the deadly disease, and the vital support provided by RMH.
Before Craig even finished the trek on Saturday, he said he’d “definitely” achieved what he’d set out to do.
“It’s not about how far I walk, it’s about how many people I reach along the way. It’s about raising awareness.
“Aaron was the inspiration for the walk but it’s about all the kids and families in RMH and the Royal Children’s,” Craig said when he took a breather in Korumburra last Tuesday.
Craig said his journey had been full of unforgettable experiences, with highlights including the people he met, the scenery, and “all the things you don’t see when you’re driving”.
Sometimes supporters would pay for a night’s accommodation for Craig, but often he would camp out in the tiny tent he carried with him, sometimes even by the side of the road if he was particularly tired.
“I wanted to do most of it myself. It made it a better experience,” he said, citing a close encounter with a lyrebird when camping in bush near Eden on the NSW south coast as one example.
Craig said walking 25km each day with a 20kg pack on his back had been physically gruelling but his body was holding up pretty well and had only started doing “weird stuff” when he got into Melbourne (over 1000km into the trek).
“It’s very trialling to keep up the pace. The moment you slack off you start cramping up and you think ‘oh my god, I can’t do this’. But you just have to push past it.”
He was happy to have lost some weight (around 17kg) and put on a fair bit of muscle along the way, but he was missing his family “immensely” and looking forward to getting home and celebrating with them.
After the celebrations on Saturday, where Craig finished the walk surrounded by supporters and paediatric cancer survivors, Craig said it was “overwhelming” to have such encouragement, love and support throughout the walk, right up to the finish line.
“It was not only a physical journey but an emotional one,” he said, “[and] being able to share those final steps with some of the children this walk was about, was amazing. These kids have endured so much, and that is my inspiration, my motivation. It has all been for them!”
Craig and Hannah wanted to thank the local and wider community, as “without their support Craig’s K’s for Cancer wouldn’t be the success it is”.
“Thank you to everyone for coming on Saturday, some driving from across the state to be there. Thank you to the Toora Lions, Toora Fire Brigade, the Royal Standard Hotel, Kerry and Troy Duroux, Zac Chapman and family, Rylan Smith and family, Paul and Jen Delaney, and Rachael Thompson.
“Thank you to everyone for donations! We can’t express our gratitude enough for all the support received throughout this journey – right from Aaron’s diagnosis back in September 2016, the community support has been what has kept us going. We are humbled and so very grateful,” he said.
Craig is hoping to turn the walk into an annual event, getting more people involved and walking with him.
“Hannah’s been working her bum off on the [Craig’s Ks for Cancer] Facebook page. We’ve built up over 2000 followers – it seems a waste to just throw that away.”
You can still donate to Craig’s Ks for Cancer by heading to rmhparkville.org.au/event/craigsksforcancer