Challenge Tom adventurer Tom Dow to abseil down Boat Harbour cliff for School of St Jude in Tanzania

Hair-raising: Tom Dow gets a "rush" from heights. He will abseil down a 12 metre cliff on Sunday. Details: mycause.com.au/events/challengetom Picture: Jonathan Carroll

Hair-raising: Tom Dow gets a "rush" from heights. He will abseil down a 12 metre cliff on Sunday. Details: mycause.com.au/events/challengetom Picture: Jonathan Carroll

TOM Dow doesn’t let anything hold him back.

Mr Dow, who lives with a rare and severe neurological disorder called Leigh Syndrome, was one of the youngest people in the country to sky dive, at age 14.

He is now preparing for another high-altitude adventure: abseiling down a 12 metre cliff at Boat Harbour on Sunday, to raise funds for the charity-funded School of St Jude in Tanzania.

“I’m nervous, but excited,” said Mr Dow, 30, who has mobility in one arm and uses a letter board to communicate. “I feel free [when I’m up that high].”

Managing director of Pulse Climbing at Adamstown Scott Forrester said instructors will be stationed at the top and bottom of the cliff and help Mr Dow complete a controlled descent.

Mr Dow will then return to the top to ride a flying fox.

“We can take our time, or go as quickly as Tom likes,” Mr Forrester said. “Climbing is a sport for everyone. Abseiling is about skills that anyone can learn: trust, communication, team work, assessing risk and making a decision.”

The Newcastle Herald reported in February that Mr Dow and his friend Lloyd Valentine had kick-started the Challenge Tom campaign, which asks the community to make a charitable donation in order to cast their vote for which of two suggested activities they would like to see him attempt. Donations for both activities will be given to both charities. 

For the first round, he went tandem kite-surfing to raise funds for the Australian Mitochondrial Disease Foundation (AMDF). For the second round, he went hang-gliding for Liver Kids Australia.

“It’s a constant battle for people not to see Tom as his disability and not to see him as a charity case,” Mr Valentine said. “Tom is very clear on this: he’s not a charity case. This is Tom’s way of giving back, of contributing to the community that has supported him.”

Mr Dow’s condition affects the central nervous system. It includes the progressive loss of mental and movement abilities and typically results in death within a few years. Mr Dow and his friends will attempt The Bloody Long Walk in November to raise funds for the AMDF.

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