NEWCASTLE resident Michael Cooke was shocked when he saw the devastation the October-November 2019 bushfires caused in the Manning-Great Lakes region.
He was determined to do his bit to help out.
Thirty-nine-year-old Michael's dad, Robert, now lives in Taree, so there's a connection.
This Friday January 24 Michael will set off from Heatherbrae to run 150 kilometres to Forster.
He aims to complete the journey on Sunday where he'll present a cheque for money he has raised to RFS Mid Coast district manager and this year's Australia Day ambassador, Kam Baker during celebrations.
A brain injury, sustained when he was 18 months old, resulted in Michael developing epilepsy.
A developmental delay impacted his ability to learn to read and write.
Despite these challenges, he completed high school, finishing Year 10 to begin a chef's apprenticeship.
Sport has always been Michael's passion.
As a child he played rugby league, AFL and tennis.
This passion has carried over into his adult life, most notably his love for the West Tigers (he is a life-long, die-hard West Tigers supporter, having supported them since he was about five-years-old) and his love of AFL, where he played for his local team, Cardiff Hawks since he was in school.
Last year he was selected to represent both NSW and Australia at the AFL disability inclusion games.
Michael trains at the gym daily to keep fit and has undertaken regular long-distance runs around his local area in order to train for the charity run.
While this is his first time undertaking a long-distance run, he has competed in the City to Surf regularly.
He began training for the charity run in early December when the the area was dealing with the aftermath of the fires.
He started a Facebook fundraising campaign to raise money for the run and has so far raised around $1800.
His target is $2000 and he plans on keeping the Facebook campaign open during the run.
Michael has received a great deal of support from his beloved AFL club, Cardiff Hawks, for the charity run.
One of his team-mates, Tony Edser, will accompany him.
Tony, a personal trainer, has previous experience running marathons and he'll keep Michael motivated during the tough sections of the journey.
Another club member will drive alongside them on one of the days.
Michael considers Cardiff Hawks AFL club as family.
They play a huge part in his life. Michael's boss at Jayco at Heatherbrae has also provided plenty of support and they'll start the run from there.
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