Ruth is the human interest reporter and a photographer for the Bay of Plenty Times.

Four peaks in a day for good cause

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Tauranga fighters to climb four New Zealand mountains in one day to raise awareness of mitochondrial disease. L-R Kevin Cowper, Campbell Cairns, Jenna Collings Photo/George Novak
Tauranga fighters to climb four New Zealand mountains in one day to raise awareness of mitochondrial disease. L-R Kevin Cowper, Campbell Cairns, Jenna Collings Photo/George Novak

A group of Bay of Plenty firefighters will scale four mountains in one day in an effort to raise money and awareness for those affected by Mitochondrial disease.

The group of six from Tauranga and Kawerau fire brigades will walk up and down Mount Taranaki, Mount Ruapehu, Mount Ngauruhoe and Mount Tongariro - hopefully in less than 24 hours.

Mitochondrial disease recently affected one of their own. Maddox Parker, the son of fellow firefighter John Parker and his wife Rebecca, was diagnosed with the disease and passed away on November 17 last year aged just 23 months.

We are all firefighters and we all look after each other at work. In hard times you help out. It's not about us, its about John and Rebecca. I wanted to do something for the cause.
Kevin Cowper

The little boy suffered from severe hypotonia (low muscle tone) making it impossible for him to walk, sit, roll or even hold his own head up.

He had brain damage, impaired vision, daily seizures and suffered uncontrollable muscle spasms.

Despite their own personal trials Maddox's parents vowed to help all other families who suffered from the disease by raising $1 million to go towards equipment, resources, training and support for families affected with by the disease.

So far they have raised $124,409 for the cause.

Team leader and Tauranga firefighter Kevin Cowper said they would try to tackle the walk about February 21 but it was weather and full-moon dependent.

Read more: Daily battle after crash changed Papamoa man's life

"As soon as the weather looks good for a couple of days, bang we will be gone.
"We have a five-day window where we will be able to go."

Mr Cowper said they would start the walk at midnight and hope to have it completed within 24 hours with about a four-hour drive from Taranaki to Ruapehu in between.

Mr Cowper did "a bit of training" across the weekend and scaled both Taranaki and Ruapehu in one day.

"That was hard enough, put Ngauruhoe and Tongariro on after that, it will be a big long day."

Mr Cowper estimated it would take the group about three hours to get to the top of each peak and a little less to get down.

The pain would be worth it though, he said.

"We are all firefighters and we all look after each other at work. In hard times you help out. It's not about us, its about John and Rebecca. I wanted to do something for the cause. It's not just about raising money either, it's also about raising awareness. One of the things they found when young Maddox was diagnosed was there was hardly any information about it, so it's about raising awareness too."

- To donate to the cause please visit www.fundraiseonline.co.nz/MitochondrialDisease/

- Bay of Plenty Times

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