Peter Tripovich isn’t your average 90-year-old ex-serviceman turned retired farmer. In October 2016, he finished a marathon lap around Australia to raise money for disadvantaged children in underprivileged countries.
It all started over a decade ago, when Tripovich was in Thailand, and saw first-hand the destitute conditions in which the people, and their children live day to day. Their children had little food or water, let alone luxuries we take for granted such as toys or even decent educational and residential facilities.
“I feel for the children. A lot of them are abused, especially in these third world countries. These children are sold into slavery; they’re abused and sold into prostitution. You know you can’t end it all but you can do a little bit for them.”
Tripovich was inspired by International Children’s Care Australia, an organisation devoted to raising money and improving overall living situations. Upon his return home, he was unable to forget the hardship he had seen and vowed to help the organisation in any way he could.
Rather than settle with the usual bake sale or fundraising event, Tripovich took his mission one step further, and vowed to trek around Australia on a marathon to raise much-needed funds.
“I just decided that I would walk for ICC, for the children. They’re the next generation and children need to be cared for because they can’t really stand up for themselves,” he says. “We all need somebody to care for us.”
But achieving his end goal wasn’t as easy as he imagined. With a self-administered daily target of between 25 – 40 kilometres, sometimes in dense traffic conditions and rough terrain, the days were long and took a toll on Tripovich, who was 80 years old when he started. After all, this is a journey that would be a struggle for those much younger and fitter than he.
“We had a driver [and support team], and he’d follow me along. I’d walk up an hour or two, and he’d catch up to me.” Tripovich says. “It wasn’t just a stroll in the park. It was more or less a marathon I was walking. I had to watch the traffic, and I had to work out just where I was going to get to for the night, whether we would get to a roadhouse … or a little town, whether we would be still parking [the caravan] in the country.”
Tripovich’s plans were soon thrown into chaos when he was called home for a family emergency. Although he had already raised an impressive $25,000 for ICC Australia, he was determined not to give in, and returned his original plan earlier this year, again accompanied by a support crew who would follow along at a safe distance.
This time, Tripovich was successful in completing his original goal and arrived at Melbourne GPO in early October, having raised an amazing $108,000 for ICC Australia (and walked 20,000 km in the process).
“We had good promotion. Channel Seven covered us pretty well and [I’ve] done a lot of talks with rotary clubs and with schools … [so] we were able to raise that amount, praise the Lord,” he says. “That [money] goes into helping those children. ICC run schools and sets up orphanages for these children. Also, they give out little loans for families that they [can use to] make a little business for themselves, and help them get on their feet. Help them help themselves.”
Tripovich reflects when asked about some of the highlights of his journey “Really, it’s not so much the place, it’s the people you meet along the way, is whether it makes it lovely or not. The highlights were when we’d get to a place and they would invite you home to their house, “Have a meal and stay with us for the weekend!” They’d really put themselves out to care for your needs.”
Having been home for a few months now, Tripovich is enjoying a well-deserved rest, and although he doesn’t have any more trekking adventures planned in the near future, he’s pleased that his story has managed to inspire others to not only pay more attention to the world around them, but take a more proactive approach to staying healthy.
“It means a lot to me … being able to give a talk and inspire people to get up and do something, to lift them up. I’ve achieved all I’d like to do.”
For more information about International Children’s Care Australia, and the inspiring work they do, visit their website.
[Editor/Author note: This article was first published in The Australia Times Give Magazine Vol. 3 No. 1 March 2017 (page 6). To view it in it’s original capacity, click here.]