Health

Rallying for a cause

LUKE ILLICH AND SANDRINE CAPTIEUX

Kings Park’s tree lined avenues became a riot of costumes, laughter and gaudy paintwork this morning as more than 250 cars began the fifth annual Shitbox Rally.

The eccentrically decorated vehicles need meet only one condition – they must cost less than $1000.

More than 500 people will make the 4000km journey to Darwin to raise money for cancer research.

Each team of two must raise at least $4000 and then auction their car when they get to Darwin.

Since 2010, Shitbox Rally has donated more than $3 million to become the Cancer Council of Australia’s largest independent fundraiser.

James Freeman

This year’s rally is the biggest so far, having already raised $1.4 million.

Adelaide-based James Freeman founded the Shitbox Rally after both his parents died of cancer within a year of each other.

He needed something to bring excitement and fun back into his life.

The event was clearly bringing fun and excitement to the teams preparing at Kings Park this morning.

Clad in outlandish costumes, the exuberant drivers were laughing and smiling as they reacquainted themselves with old friends.

Serge Dawson of Perth is taking part for the fourth time and loves the social aspect of the rally.

“You meet a lot of really cool people,” Mr Dawson said.

Serge Dawson and John Busuttil.

“There’s a certain type of person who thinks it’s a good idea to drive a $1000 shitbox across Australia.

“They’re generally fun people to hang out with.”

Mr Dawson’s driving partner John Busuttil, also of Perth, says the rally is a “crazy event”.

“What James has been able to achieve, the funds he’s raised over the years is amazing,” Mr Busuttil said.

“The weird thing is, it shouldn’t work but it does.

“Everyone pitches in and helps each other.”

Daniel Tugwell and Simon Allen.

The embattled cars will have to brave the heat and dust through Meekatharra, Marble Bar and Broome before tackling the legendary Gibb River Road.

This 660km of dirt road and river crossings will probably claim a number of the bedraggled automobiles.

But the entrants seemed unfazed by the daunting task ahead of them.

Participant Simon Allen enjoys the sense of adventure and camaraderie among the teams.

“You meet so many great people,” he said.

Drew and Pete Walmsley

“We love the challenge of getting all our pieces of shit through the desert.

“It becomes all about the group sticking together and helping each other out.

“It’s a great feeling.”

Freddy Sitas of the Cancer Council of New South Wales says nearly 30 per cent more Australians are alive today who, 20 years ago, would have died from cancer.

Associate Professor Sitas says this improvement has occurred due to funding of cancer research, which has led to better prevention, support and treatments.

Skipping forward a couple of hours, and Perth brothers and first time participants Pete and Drew Walmsley have just passed the town of Wubin, 225km northeast of Perth, in their ‘99 Ford Falcon station wagon.

It was with a mixture of excitement and trepidation that they started their journey this morning, with just under $6000 raised for the Cancer Council so far.

A husband and wife team getting into the spirit.

Looking forward to their adventure, Pete says it will be interesting to see how the whole experience turns out.

“We haven’t spent that much time together since we were kids,” he says.

“We don’t really know what to expect yet but it is an important cause to us.

“Cancer touches everyone in one way or the other – no one is safe from it.

“My wife was diagnosed with ovarian cancer and my grandfather died from lung cancer.”

Pants off for charity.

Travelling together in a $900 Ford that has done more than 300,000km, Pete hopes the station wagon will make it the whole way through.

“ With a hole in the front of the car, our biggest challenge could be crossing the Pentecost River at the northern tip of WA,” Pete says.

“Lucky for us, we have a mechanic on board.

“Some cars have started losing fluids but so far things are going pretty well.

“We are all sticking together.

“But everyone is looking forward to the camp kitchen tonight before taking off again at 8am tomorrow morning.”

With one eye on the speedometer and the other on the temperature gauge, Pete and Drew are due for another 500km before their final stop for the day at Meekatharra.

Photos: Luke Illich

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