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In February of this year, rugby league legend Royce Simmons publicly announced that he had been diagnosed with younger onset Alzheimer’s disease at the age of 61.
As anyone who knew Royce from his on-field exploits would have expected, he didn’t take the news lying down. Rather, he was inspired, and decided that he would do everything he could to help support those living with dementia, their families and carers.
Royce set himself a challenge to walk the 300 kilometres from his small hometown of Gooloogong, which he began on Tuesday 17 May, to his footy home of Penrith. Arriving just in time to Penrith’s Bluebet Stadium to see his beloved Panthers defeat the North Queensland Cowboys on Friday 27 May.
During the walk, Royce was joined by a plethora of fellow Aussie sporting heroes including Wally Lewis, Trevor Gillmeister, Brad Fittler, Allan Langer, Greg Alexander, Kurt Fearnley and more.
Royce passed through towns including Cowra, Blayney, Bathurst, Lithgow and Katoomba on his way to Penrith. Along the route, he conducted fundraising initiatives, and held events to support local junior rugby league clubs.
Former Panthers chairman Barry Walsh acted as a volunteer support crew driver throughout the 300-kilometre walk. In an interview with Fairfax Media, Barry said Royce had to run half the time after being stopped for photos from folks along the way.
“People will stop their cars on the highway, jump out, run to the bus and throw money through the window and then yell at you to take a photo with Roycey before jumping back in their car. It makes you emotional thinking about it.”
Upon his arrival in Penrith, Royce was greeted by family, friends and a legion of fans, who gave the Panthers Hall-of-Famer a warm welcome. Having raised $550,000 along his walk, he was presented with a cheque from the Penrith Panthers board for $100,000 to bring the total amount raised to more than $650,000 – with all the funds raised going towards the Dementia Australia Research Foundation.
We thank Royce for the courage and generosity he has shown in both sharing his story and helping to raise vital funds to support the important work done by the Dementia Australia Research Foundation.
Find out more about Royce’s Big Walk here: https://roycesbigwalk.com.au/