Guy Sebastian and Tim Freeburn may look like two mates pounding the pavement along back roads from Wagga to Sydney, but in reality they are two men on a mission, marching towards a $1million goal to fund in-school programs to help arm our kids for the tough mental challenges of our modern world.
Every step along the 500 kilometre trek which started from Wagga on Friday July 1 and included Boorowa this week, raises funds to support the Open Parachute program through Guy's charity, The Sebastian Foundation.
Open Parachute is an in-school, peer-to-peer program, that uses clinically validated, research based, psychological skills-building exercises to boost resilience, self-awareness, and social responsibility in youth, and increases their connection and systems of support.
The program currently rolls out in metropolitan and regional schools and any schools interested in participating are encouraged to get in touch with the Sebastian Foundation https://thesebastianfoundation.org/.
Guy has been personally impacted by the mental health challenges of his brother-in-law, Andy, and band member, Luke, both of whom took their own lives. Since their passing Guy has sought to find ways he could support people though their mental health journey.
The final catalyst behind the walk concept came in May 2021, when 12 year old, Lauren Rafferty of Wagga, went for a walk and took her own life as a result of persistent bullying. Unfortunately, this story is not isolated.
At the time her mother, Rachelle Rafferty, said: "The loss of Lauren has shattered and devastated our family."
"Lauren's sweet, strong, kind, quick-witted, creative and beautiful soul struggled to shine in this world that is ever increasingly cruel and relentless," she said.
Lauren's passing fueled interest from Wagga schools in the Open Parachute Program and Wagga then became the logical starting point for the 500 kilometre walk.
Tim is credited with coming up with the walk concept, something, he says with a smile, he now sometimes regrets when his feet are sore and his muscles seizing as a result of fatigue.
Tim was also the one who undertook dedicated training for the walk while Guy was on tour receiving a rigorous workout every night on stage.
Guy will now personally donate $100,000 of the proceeds of the tour to boost fundraising from the walk.
Whilst Tim has used his corporate connections to add significantly to the long list of sponsors who have thrown their weight behind the cause, such iconic names as Ampol, Jayco and the Pratt Foundation.
Both men agree the walk has tested them physically and mentally but knowing they are raising money for a good cause keeps them going.
When asked how they had fared through recent wet weather Guy responded; "The weather has actually been pretty kind except for the biting wind that takes its toll when you are walking into it."
Both men have been overwhelmed by the public response they have received on the road and as easily recognizable figures, they are often stopped for photos and are willing listeners to the mental health stories so many share with them.
However, the degree of interaction with the public is something they didn't factor into the timetable and schedule of their walk, and they have had to develop strategies to ensure their arrival at their finish line on time.
They also give glowing endorsements to Mizuno Shoes who are not sponsors but both agree have proven to be the most comfortable and fit-for-purpose for the walk from the 4 pairs they each packed in their kit.
Guy through his Foundation, vows to continue to work to improve the mental health of young Australians.
Suicide is the leading cause of death for young Australians and the challenges young people face in school, on social media and in navigating adolescence can be overwhelming. We want to make sure all young Australians are given the opportunity to learn the psychological skills that will enable them to best cope with these life challenges at an early stage.
Guy and Tim believe we need to consider mental health as an integral part of our kids' education, which will give them the best chance to grow up healthy and happy.
Guy's charity, The Sebastian Foundation, supports an in-school, peer-to-peer program, Open Parachute, that uses clinically validated, research based, psychological skills-building exercises to boost resilience, self-awareness, and social responsibility in youth, and increases their connection and systems of support.
Every $30 raised as Guy and Tim walk for ten days the 500kms from Wagga to Sydney, will enable another child to participate in the program and, ultimately, prevent more lives lost to mental health issues.
Sign up for our newsletter to stay up to date.