The Wizard Of Oz

When I knock up a guest post, I strive to make it a good one. Either the subject has to be good, or the person that gave me the idea has got to have given me an angle on something different that’s good. This week’s blog has both, and more. Much, much more…

This is the true story of The Wizard Of Oz.

The story started for me a few weeks ago when something popped up on my Twitter feed. I can’t remember who tweeted it but I think it was a retweet of a retweet. That’s why I love Twitter so much: you can find out so much good stuff in an instant. Who needs the news when just about everything you need is out there on your timeline. Anyway, someone fed had me a link to a story that really captured my imagination. The only problem was, I knew pretty much straight away that I’d missed most of it. For me it was like coming in with ten minutes to go in the final episode of a six part drama. So I had to play catch up. I got onto Google, scoured You Tube, found some footage, and pretty much got myself up to speed with the plot: I liked it, I liked it a lot.

There are only two people I know who possess the same infatuation (because that’s what it is) with ignoring common sense, ignoring the normal boundaries, and taking on stuff that just takes your breath away. And both of these characters make me wish I wasn’t in a 9 to 5 job so that I could just get out there and join them. These two individuals have cloned my spirit. I can say that, and get away with it, because while I’m 61, they are both young and in their twenties. One of those guys is Chumba, an inspirational free spirit from The Highland March, and the other one is Jimmy Harrington, the Wizard Of Oz.

When Chumba announced back in 2008 that he was planning to walk from Oslo to Glasgow for charity between two Scotland World Cup qualifiers, I didn’t think he was mad (like everyone else), I just wished I could have gone with him. But I couldn’t because I couldn’t afford to take that amount of time off work. I thought that Oslo to Glasgow was a long way, and it was. I’ve huge respect for Chumba, Lady Madonna and Slater for finishing that walk. But it was Chumba’s brainchild.

And so to Jimmy, the most remarkable Australian of 2013/14…

Jimmy is from Adelaide in South Australia, where as a teenager he worked in a Café. Like many teenagers, he didn’t know what he wanted to do when he grew up, and ideas of being a polis, a teacher and a zoo keeper all crossed his mind. But Jimmy wanted to be different and not just be different, he actually wanted to make a difference. Cue Emily. Emily was a young girl who frequently came into the Café, and Jimmy was mesmerised by the courage that Emily possessed in having beaten cancer not once but twice. But as all families of children with cancer will testify, it is a disease that never gives up, and in Emily’s case, it came back with a vengeance a third time, terminally, as brain cancer, and she passed away just short of her ninth birthday.

Jimmy did not forget Emily. Jimmy could not forget Emily. Emily changed Jimmy’s life. Forever…

At first he started doing fundraising events in and around Adelaide in support of the Brainchild Foundation.

The Brainchild Foundation is a charitable organisation established in 2010 with the aim of helping children who are affected by brain and spinal cord tumours, and their families.

Now compare that mission with the NCCA UK which helps families affected by the childhood cancer neuroblastoma through supporting access to treatment, research, parent education and raising awareness.

Jimmy Harrington and I are one and the same spirit doing the same thing for the same cause, 10000 miles apart. The world is indeed a very small place at times.

But Jimmy didn’t stop with a wee walk round Adelaide: he decided to take his message round the country, and May 2013 he set off to walk round Australia: when I say round, I mean right round, as in right round the outside. I converted the kilometres to miles and I made in just over 11,000 miles. Jimmy Harrington walked 11,000 miles round the coast of Australia in order to raise money for the Brainchild Foundation. It took him 13 months, averaging 30 miles a day, however the average was actually higher than that, a lot higher, because Jimmy wisely took rest days. I reckon that when he was on the road, Jimmy was banging in 35 miles a day, every day.

Jimmy Harrington was only 20 when he set out. He celebrated his 21st out on the road.

To date, Jimmy Harrington has raised over $230,000 for the Brainchild Foundation.

Jimmy Harrington is a national hero. No, correct that: Jimmy Harrington is an international hero.

Jimmy Harrington is an inspiration to people all over the world to become a force for good.

For Oscar Knox, read wee Emily.

For the NCCA, read the Brainchild Foundation.

For the LifeCycle man, read Jimmy Harrington.

We are of the same spirit.

Now when my challenge is over, I want to meet up with Jimmy Harrington, drink beer, and ask the question “Why”. Why did you decide to walk round Australia? Tell me about that moment when you thought “this is what I’m going to do”. Tell me about your hopes that you might be able to do it, and tell me about your fears that it might not work out the way you’d planned. I share those same hopes and fears every day that I get on the bike. I have just over 500 cycling days to go. For me, doing the miles is the easy part: it’s holding down a full time job and trying to keep up with all the other stuff that makes it so difficult. And you can’t do these things without a strong family to support you. Jimmy’s family were there every step of the way: Jimmy’s mum and dad took a year out to follow their son. Huge, huge respect to you all. My wife is the rock on which LifeCycleForNeuroblastoma is based. She allows me the time and the freedom, and she supports me through the difficult times. And she makes cake. I would back Mrs Von’s cake against Mr Kipling any day of the week.

Now when I woke at 5am last Sunday morning, and dared not move for fear of waking the family, I did as I always do on those early morning weekends: I reached for my phone… Twitter:  It told me that Jimmy Harrington had sealed the deal. Overnight, while I was in in the land of nod with my wee sore legs, Jimmy had finally nailed it.

It’s Friday night people, and it’s late: but please raise a glass and toast Jimmy Harrington, The Wizard Of Oz.

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