Ingham Daily Press

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Will power: Mums on a mission team up to go ‘Wheelin’ for Willy’

Pushing with purpose: 'Team Wheelin' for Willy' team members pictured with driver Peter Sheahan ready to conquer the Great Wheelbarrow Race in honour of Will Murdoch.

TEN local mums are embarking on a challenge like no other in memory of young Will Murdoch – a special journey that will harness the spirit, purpose and determination that only a mother can muster to conquer a great race for a great cause.

Next month, the group of friends will push a wheelbarrow 140 kilometres along the iconic ‘Wheelbarrow Way’ between Mareeba and Chillagoe as part of the Great Wheelbarrow Race, raising funds for local charity Ingham Palliative Care.

Friends supporting friends: Team Wheelin’ for Willy members (back L-R) Jessica Guandalini, Sarah Sheahan, Melissa Inunciaga, Danielle Pappin, Cassie Blanco, Kelly Murdoch, (front L-R) Jess Myles, Michelle Matsen, Jessica Murray and Caroline Crisp.

Will’s mum, Kelly Murdoch, is among the ten-strong team of mums pushing the wheelbarrow in honour of her son, who was only 12 years old when he was tragically killed after his ATV Side by Side rolled in a cane paddock at Long Pocket, west of Ingham, just over a year ago.

“I thought it was an amazing idea at that stage of my life. I was looking for something to keep myself extra busy, and this wheelbarrow race training has done exactly that,” she said.

“Will was always keen for a new adventure, he would be super proud we are doing this race in honour of him.”

Kelly Murdoch with son, Will.

Mrs Murdoch said the importance of taking part in the race was about keeping Will’s memory alive.

“Will was such an exceptional kid and when he had his accident, I think the whole town was just shattered at the news.

“The outpour of generosity and support we received from Ingham people was outstanding. It is so nice to be able to give back to our community in honour of my little man,” she said.

In a display of grace and inspiration, Mrs Murdoch said the training in the lead up to the race has been very intense but a welcome distraction with a great support network around her.

“When it gets hard, I think of my boy and how he would put 100 per cent into everything he did in life and just follow that lead.

“This amazing team of ladies have been the support network I have needed to get through these hard times. Not only this team but everyone in Ingham have just been so supportive,” she said.

Even at a young age, Will was keen for adventure, taking part in rodeos was a passion of his.

Crossing the finish line together will be an emotional moment for the mums after months of gruelling training while balancing home and work commitments.

“I get quite emotional thinking about it. It is just so nice to be able to do this for our Ingham community in honour of my little man Will.”

Kelly Murdoch

The determined and enthusiastic women from ‘Team Wheelin’ for Willy’ have a rigorous training schedule for the main event between May 20 to 22, including bootcamps, personal training sessions, swimming, running – and of course, pushing a wheelbarrow.

Team member and mum of three, Danielle Pappin had no idea what she was signing up for nor the “enormity” of the quest when a friend suggested they register in the Great Wheelbarrow Race.

“Our [Team] Captain Jess Murray had a friend compete in the race a few years ago, so like all good stories it started over a few drinks. 

“Next minute we’ve nominated a team. We had no idea what ‘The Great Wheelbarrow Race’ was but we were in,” she said.

“It sounded fun, although in hindsight we probably didn’t realise the enormity of what we were actually signing up for.”

Mrs Pappin said the motivation behind ‘Team Wheelin’ for Willy’ came about “organically” when fellow mums looked for ways to support Will’s mum Kelly, a cousin to Mrs Pappin.

“Although we would give anything to have our Willy here with us, it is an absolute honour to be running in his memory,” she said.

“The pain of losing him has been felt deeply but we have chosen to turn that pain around and use it fuel us with determination and purpose. We want to do him proud.”

Danielle Pappin

Mrs Pappin said the experience was a positive way to support Mrs Murdoch as well as strengthen their bodies and friendships at the same time. 

“Will lived his life in such an admirable way and we hope to harness some of his ‘can do’ attitude and like Will, support your mates and give 100 per cent. 

“There is no doubt about it every step we take we are ‘Wheelin’ for Willy’,” she said.

Team Wheelin’ for Willy’ are running for Will Murdoch and harnessing his positive ‘can do’ attitude to get them through.

Now in its nineteenth year, the Great Wheelbarrow Race attracts hundreds of people from all over the country with 22 teams registered for this year’s race.

The event, hosted by Mareeba Council, takes place every third weekend in May along ‘Wheelbarrow Way’ as a tribute to the early pioneers who once travelled the region using a wheelbarrow to carry their possessions, and to honour their amazing trail-blazing feats.

What started out with just a few teams pushing a humble wheelbarrow in the footsteps of the region’s pioneers is now one of the biggest fundraising events on the calendar – having raised over two million dollars for charities since its inception.

The race is run in a relay format over three days in three stages, Mareeba to Dimbulah (42 kilometres), Dimbulah to Almaden (65 kilometres) and Almaden to Chilligoe (33 kilometres) with each team member taking a turn to run with the empty wheelbarrow.

“We will all take turns of running with the wheelbarrow whilst the nine other team members are on a bus following and then in turn changeover to the next runner and so on,” Mrs Pappin said.

“Each team member must compete, and running/changeover strategies are left for each team to decide what works best for them.”

Perfecting the changeover: The team practise their changeover technique which requires a mix of the right timing, correct positioning and good communication not always easy.

Along with the driver, each bus will also have a marshal to oversee race rules and regulations.

“Kelly’s dad Peter is our bus driver; my husband Dean is our team marshal (but will oversee another team) and then there’s husbands and friends keeping us fed and watered and setting up camp. It’s going to be an entertaining crew.

“As it is our first time competing, we are a little overwhelmed with the logistics of jumping out of buses and pushing a wheelbarrow 140 kilometres.

“But we know at the end of it we will have a ton of laughs, a few bruises and blisters and most of all, a sense of achievement,” she said.

Each team will be timed over the three days of racing and the total added up with the fastest teams being named winner of their category and an overall winner taking out the event in the fastest time. 

‘Team Wheelin’ for Willy’ will vie for top spot in the women’s category although Mrs Pappin admits that it’s not about winning the race for the team but rather the experience – stepping out of their comfort zone, setting a goal and achieving it.

“We all love a laugh and to be totally honest it’s not been about winning the race.  We are really just tired, busy mums trying to be there for one another.”

Danielle Pappin

But tired and busy isn’t stopping them, only fuelling the quest as the inspiring mums who have 26 children between them prove that anything is possible.

“In many ways I think it’s been good for our children and our families to see us do something for ourselves, to set a goal and achieve it,” she said.

The team have been training hard in the lead up to the event and have racked up kilometres with the wheelbarrow in preparation.

To push a wheelbarrow on any given day is hard work but to run one 140 kilometres over three days will test even the fittest, with Mrs Papin claiming she is “definitely the most unfit”.

“Until you’ve actually tried doing it [running with a wheelbarrow] you don’t realise how hard it is… but we are all very supportive of each other and respect the different abilities to the team.

“We are all so out of our comfort zone. Our PT Sarah says, ‘this is where all the good stuff happens’ but no doubt there will be fun had along the way,” she said.

“We are very pumped and looking forward to a great event, but it will be a little emotional too.”

The diverse team consists of business owners, teachers, graziers, station hands, a hairdresser and a dental assistant but when it’s time to train Mrs Pappin said, “we turn up, we shut up and we give 100 per cent.”

“I’ll tell you, there is no spare breath to talk during it and at the end of training we are all too tired.”

While the team has been busy training, they have also been busy fundraising for their chosen charity, Ingham Palliative Care.

“For many years we have all admired the wonderful women of Ingham who tirelessly give their time selling tickets to raise money for our local hospital.

“Although there is a shift in how the fundraising is done now that most mums are working and we aren’t able to sit downtown selling cakes at the cake stall, this is something that we can do and in in turn have a great time too,” Mrs Pappin said.

When friends come together for good: The team at a fundraising event hosted at JK’s Deli, raising funds for Ingham Palliative Care.

The team has been so overwhelmed by the support of the community and their fundraising efforts that they are keeping the total amount raised so far a surprise.

“We have been truly overwhelmed with everyone’s support and to be honest, we were a little thrown as to how generous people have been.”

Danielle Pappin

“We will continue to need the support of the community as we hit the home run in our training and fundraising over the next three weeks.

“So, when you see those crazy ladies pushing a wheelbarrow round town, please give us a beep and plenty of encouragement, because I can tell you it’s bloody hard work!”

And their hard work will be well worth it for Ingham Palliative Care and the entire Hinchinbrook community as these amazing women go ‘Wheelin’ for Willy’.

Proving anything is possible: ‘Team Wheelin’ for Willy’ are ready to race.

We’re right behind you girls! All the best on your adventure and we can’t wait to find out how much you’ve raised with the support of the community.

If you would like to show your support to ‘Team Wheelin’ for Willy’, there’s still time. You can donate via online transfer. All proceeds go to Ingham Palliative Care.

Name: Wheelin’ for Willy BSB: 084 629 Account: 310330443

Please leave your name as a reference.

The Murdoch Family: Kelly and Andrew with Will and daughter Kenzi at the Ingham Show.
In loving memory: Will will be remembered for his unmistakably cheeky yet gorgeous smile.

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