Dementia Australia has thanked and congratulated Australian rugby league and Penrith Panthers legend Royce Simmons on walking 300km in just 11 days, in the process raising more than $650,000 to support the Dementia Australia Research Foundation (DARF).
Earlier this year, Simmons publicly revealed that he had been diagnosed with younger onset Alzheimer’s disease, at the age of 61.
Royce was inspired to take on this challenge to generate awareness of dementia and raise much needed funds.
The challenge saw him set off from his hometown of Gooloogong in central New South Wales on Tuesday May 17, towards the place in Penrith where his footy dreams were realised — now known as the BlueBet Stadium.
Dementia Australia CEO Maree McCabe said Simmons’ commitment to completing this incredible fundraising challenge has been truly inspiring.
“I extend my sincere thanks and appreciation to Royce for everything he has done,” McCabe said.
“Royce has displayed generosity and courage by sharing his story to raise awareness and has helped raise vital funds to support the important work of the Dementia Australia Research Foundation.
“Congratulations Royce on completing this incredible walk — it’s an outstanding achievement and your endeavours will make a difference to the lives of Australians impacted by dementia, now and long into the future.”
During the walk, Simmons was joined by several fellow Aussie sporting heroes including Wally Lewis, Trevor Gillmeister, Brad Fittler, Allan Langer, Greg Alexander and Kurt Fearnley.
He passed through towns including Cowra, Blayney, Bathurst, Lithgow and Katoomba and along the route, he conducted fundraising initiatives, and held events to support local junior Rugby League clubs.
“My thanks to Royce’s many supporters, the Penrith Panthers, the communities along the route who turned out to cheer him on, and everyone who donated and supported this incredible challenge,” McCabe said.
Simmons ultimately crossed the finish line in Penrith on Friday, May 27, just in time to see his beloved Panthers kick-off against the North Queensland Cowboys.
And prior to the first whistle, in a wonderful gesture of support, the Panthers presented Simmons with a cheque for $100,000 to add to his fundraising efforts (pictured above).
There are almost half a million people of all ages living with all forms of dementia in Australia.
Without a major medical breakthrough this figure is projected to increase to one million people by 2058.
Fundraising initiatives like Royce’s Big Walk play an important role not only in funding research, but also in raising awareness of dementia.
For more information on Royce’s Big Walk and to show your support, click here.