Stepping up to the challenge

Published 3:00pm 2 March 2022

Stepping up to the challenge
Words by Jodie Powell

Soldier On National Pathways Program director John Hardgrave is a man on a mission.

He’s gearing up to walk 150km this month as part of Soldier On’s March On challenge, which raises money to provide support for serving and ex-serving Defence Force veterans and their families.

It’s a cause close to John’s heart – he spent 17 years in Defence, including operational service in the Solomon Islands, Timor Leste and Afghanistan, and still serves as an Army Reservist.

For the past four years he’s worked with Soldier On, which provides services such as free psychology sessions, social connection, finding employment and education to repurpose existing skills.

John says the purpose of the March On challenge was twofold – to raise awareness of the work of Soldier On and to raise money to help fund its programs.

“We have a touch point with well over 6000 veterans and their families at any one time – our service enables them to thrive,” he says.

“It’s all about raising money so we can continue to provide services for the community.”

Distance of significance

Stepping up to the challenge

Participants in March On are encouraged to cover 96km - the length of the Kokoda Track – with supporters making donations.

While most people taking part walk or run the distance, others cycle or swim, depending on their abilities.

John’s challenged himself to cover 150km and says many others are tackling 103km in memory of March On patron World War II veteran Sergeant Bert Le-Merton, who died late last year aged 103.

A passionate supporter of Soldier On’s work, Sgt Le-Merton walked 419.15km between August 15, 2020 and March 31, 2021, raising $112,223 for the organisation.

“I’m doing 150km because I wanted to set myself a challenge – 96km is only 3km a day, where as 150km is 5km a day – I don’t do things by halves,” John says.

To donate to John’s March On campaign click here.

Stay up to date with local news here.

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