Wickham grandad's track trek for autism awareness

WALKING ON: David Russell and grandson Xander, 7. - Picture by Jonathan Carroll
WALKING ON: David Russell and grandson Xander, 7. - Picture by Jonathan Carroll

INSPIRED by his grandsons, Wickham walker David Russell is about to embark on one of trekking's toughest challenges.

The 57-year-old Telstra business manager has been training for five months to walk the Kokoda Track.

He leaves for Papua New Guinea on Saturday to start the trek on July 25 and returns on August 3.

Mr Russell is taking on the physical challenge in a bid to raise awareness of autism, a condition from which two of his grandsons suffer.

Three colleagues - Ian Dall from South Australia, Steven Wilson from the NSW south coast and John Stroud from Victoria - will join him.

Their motivation is to do something positive for autism awareness and raise money for non-profit organisation Autism Spectrum Australia.

"The awareness is the key driver," Mr Russell said.

"It's [autism] often seen as a behavioural thing.

"It breaks your heart when you see the poor little devils are just trying to understand."

Mr Russell has done walks in Australia, New Zealand and Peru, but believes the Kokoda Track will be the toughest yet.

"It's conditions I haven't experienced before," he said.

"The rain, the bog, the mud, the heat.

"But also the terrain, it's quite steep."

While money for the autism cause would be good, Mr Russell said raising awareness was the most important thing.

"It's nice if they want to leave a donation, but it's all about people understanding the struggle people with autism face," he said.

For information go to stepup4autism.com.