Ashleigh Worldon, a recent communication graduate from the University of Newcastle, organised the inaugural Walk to D‘feet event earlier this month to help raise awareness and funds for Motor Neurone Disease (MND).
Ashleigh’s efforts raised over $30,000 with more than 600 community members showing up on the day to walk the five kilometre track at Speers Point.
Organising the event was such a personal and passionate desire for Ashleigh as her mother passed away from the disease ten years ago.
She contacted the Motor Neurone Disease Association of NSW in June last year to see if they would take her on for work placement and they were more than willing. She ended up working on small projects in their PR and marketing department before being offered the Walk to D’feet project.
While she was confident she could do it well, she never thought the event would be as successful as it was.
“I felt completely overwhelmed after the event because I didn’t expect the event to be so big, but just meeting so many members of the MND community has been an absolute breath of fresh air as so many people are going through the grief my family and I have been through.”
It took months of preparation to organise the event and to find the perfect track that was feet, wheelchair and dog friendly.
As she completed a Bachelor of Communication majoring in Public Relations last year, Ashleigh was able to use the skills of her degree to work with media and write press releases to promote the event.
“I believe a lot of my confidence to work with people has come from my degree. I also undertook a lot of work placement while studying, especially in event management, so I used this experience for the Walk to D’feet event,” she explained.
Along with securing sponsors and talking to local media, Ashleigh also organised entertainment for the day while working part time and completing her final year of study.
“It was very stressful at times but my heart was in this project and I was never going to let anything stop me from making this event happen. The MND motto is ‘Never Give Up’ which is something that is always implanted in my thoughts,” she said.
While Ashleigh is currently working in marketing for an engineering company she said her dream is to one day work for a charity organisation to help the sufferers and carers of fatal illnesses. She believes she inherited her drive and positivity from her mum.
“Even though I was quite young when my mum passed away I still remember her last words to me, ‘keep smiling’. I have never forgotten these words of wisdom and will continue to keep smiling in every aspect of my life,” she said.