A 16,000 kilometre walk to support sick children
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A 16,000 kilometre walk to support sick children

James ''Jimmy'' Harrington and his mum set up their Jimmy's Walk For Cancer booth among the shopfronts at Tuggeranong's Hyperdome on Tuesday and one of the shops was, appropriately enough, The Athlete's Foot.

The 20-year-old's athletic feet and legs are taking him on a year-long 16,000 kilometre anti-clockwise walk right around Australia.

Hardy Jimmy Harrington, 20, is walking 16,000km around Australia to raise funds for children with brain and spinal-cord tumours.

Hardy Jimmy Harrington, 20, is walking 16,000km around Australia to raise funds for children with brain and spinal-cord tumours.Credit:Elesa Kurtz

He left Adelaide on May 19 last year and so far he has beetled across nearly 12,000 kilometres. He has been bustling along at about 50 kilometres a day and on Monday he walked to Canberra from the Tarago/Bungendore direction and then on Tuesday he paused in Canberra to do a little spreading of the word of the cause, the Brainchild Foundation, that is so dear to his heart and is the engine driving his legs and feet.

If you are reading this on Wednesday, then he is already back on the road again, hoping to reach Michelago tonight (his mum Debbie, travelling with him, is not a local, was under the impression the town is called ''Michelangelo'' and this was so lovely an idea, we didn't have the heart to correct her).

Harrington crosses the Nullarbor.

Harrington crosses the Nullarbor.

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After Michelangelo he will stride on towards Cooma, then will go down to the coast and around the coastline, to Melbourne, then to Tasmania, and then he'll be homeward bound in the Adelaide direction.

The Brainchild Foundation's vision is ''to provide support and better tomorrows to the children and families affected by brain and spinal cord tumours, and to strive for a cure for these diseases''.

But why is the slightly weatherbeaten-looking youngster doing this, in a feat that so far, he laughs, has seen him wear out 10 pairs of shoes?

In 2010, he explains, he was working in a cafe and met Emily, 9.

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''She'd be a regular customer, with her grandparents, and she had a brain tumour. And just watching her journey and hearing all about it inspired me. Every time she came in she was so inspiring. She was so [kind] and she was always smiling, which was incredible considering what she was going through. And unfortunately she passed away and when I heard that news it made me want to get up and do something. No kid should have to suffer what she went through. So I started with a [fund-raising for Brainchild] walkathon around Adelaide, and then heard of people who had walked right around Australia, and so decided to do it.''

Everywhere he goes, he spreads the word about what a scourge tumours in children are and how underfunded research into the problems is. He either collects donations on the spot or refers people to the foundation. So far, after about 12,500 kilometres (and 10 pairs of shoes) he's raised about $110,000.

Mark Lynch's cartoon on the fate of the unicorn.

Mark Lynch's cartoon on the fate of the unicorn.

There have been adventures galore, and lots of pleasures after the initial shocks to his legs (sore knees) and feet (blisters) were overcome. I'd imagined the Nullarbor must have been hell but in fact, he reports, it was one of the most enjoyable stretches of all.

''I listened to music, so that helped keep me sane, and there's always lots to see, lots of wildlife, lots of eagles, on the Nullarbor. Going at a slow pace you get to see and notice much more than you do when you drive.''

People along the way have been generally wonderful but there was one horrific occasion (in the north-west) when the van was broken into and $15,000 in donations was stolen. And this in spite of the fact, he marvels, that the van was so sprinkled with signs proclaiming that it was involved in a cancer-fighting cause. But this cloud had a silver lining because when the outrage was reported through social media, philanthropists leapt to more than make up the stolen sum.

Although it's his young legs and feet doing the hard kilometres, his whole family (he's one of seven children) is involved.

It's mostly his mother who is on the road with him (''I mostly walk for five kilometres and then she catches up, which saves her from the boredom of having to go at a snail's pace all the time'') but his Adelaide-based father and other family members have all taken time to be with him at intervals, out there with him on the long and winding road.

When all this is over, he mused at the Hyperdome beside his table distributing information and selling fund-raising merchandise, he hopes to go to uni in Brisbane (where the Brainchild Foundation is based) to study social science, perchance to become a counsellor in the area to which he was first alerted by the inspirational Emily.

Find out all about Brainchild and about Jimmy Harrington's shoe-chewing journey (thank goodness he has a shoe company as a sponsor!) at www.brainchild.org.au and at www.facebook.com/JimmysWalkforCancer

No unicorns?

The blockbusting success of the movie Noah (in Canberra cinemas as we speak, and seizing number one box office spot worldwide in its first week of release) is rekindling interest in a great zoological mystery.

Why there are there no unicorns, now?

Here, by special permission of artist Mark Lynch (‘‘because Geoff Pryor of The Canberra Times was an old mate of mine’’) is Lynch’s plausible, zoologically insightful and theologically stimulating theory. Noah’s wife is breaking some terrible news to her husband.

Ian Warden is a columnist for The Canberra Times