MERCURY SERIES: Making A Difference
Wollongong mother of four Melinda Charlesworth is about to spend seven days climbing Africa's highest mountain to raise money for Alzheimer's research at the University of Wollongong.
The Mount Kilimanjaro climb is in memory of her father Rex Burrell, who died at the age of 70 after many years suffering Alzheimer's.
"I am calling it Climb To Remember because we are raising money for Alzheimer's research," she said.
Mrs Charlesworth, who has two degrees from UOW, aims to raise $25,000 to help fund important research at the Illawarra Health and Medical Research Institute.
"My father had a genetic condition that predisposed him to Alzheimer's disease," she said.
"My brother, sister and I all went and got genetic testing done and found out that we have all got the same gene that he had. So the race is on to get some medical research done into these conditions to try and work out a way to stop people with this genetic condition getting Alzheimer's."
Mrs Charlesworth said she also had a personal reason to test herself physically on the 5895-metre mountain.
"Dad was a marathon runner and always very fit and healthy so I wanted what I did to raise money for him to be some sort of physical challenge to honour him," she said.
Mrs Charlesworth has been training for the last three months with her husband Daron, who will accompany her on the climb.
With the November 20 departure date looming, they have been running every day and cycling three days a week, involving their children Marcus, Lawson, Delta and Wilson.
"It is actually really good because the kids think they are having an outing and we think we are training. We incorporate normal family activities into it so the kids are actually really enjoying it.
"It is just the two of us going over to do the climb. I saw a documentary about four years ago on someone climbing Mount Kilimanjaro and it just really resonated with me as a good physical challenge.
"It is a seven-day climb. Five days up the mountain and two days back down."
"'It is not mountaineering. There are no ice axes or ropes or anything, it is just a very long walk uphill. This is something that anyone with a bit of training and preparation could do. It is a physical challenge but it is not impossible."
The preparation has also involved booking flights, a tour company, guides and porters.
"We actually start climbing on the 23rd of November," she said.
"We will carry day packs on the walks and the porters ... will go ahead of us and set up the camp each night."
Mrs Charlesworth said staff at the University of Wollongong had been really supportive.
The UOW website has a fund-raising link called www.youruowcommunity.edu.au/kilimanjaroclimb and she also has a Facebook page people can like called climb2remember.
"They have actually set up a portal where people can actually go online and donate directly to it," she said.
"Our goal is to raise $25,000 because that will fund a year's postgraduate research. It will basically give a new researcher a grant to be able to start some research.
"The idea is to get new researchers into the field. The more people who are researching this stuff the better. If we can get $100,000 we can fund a whole PhD and that would be fantastic ... but $25,000 would be great and we are trying to target corporate donations if we can."
While she is doing the climb Mrs Charlesworth intends to blog her progress at www.climb2remember.com.au and provide regular updates on Facebook.