We have had the great honour to follow Maaka McKinney as he traveled from Bluff, NZ the southern point of New Zealand to Cape Reinga, NZ the northern point of New Zealand all in 17 days on bicycle up the South island and foot up the North island. Toward the end of this major journey, Maaka joined the firefighters of New Zealand and climbed the Sky Tower in Auckland with 25KG of firefighter equipment.
The journey began on Anzac Day, 23 April, 2017 - a noteworthy day as Maaka did this major journey to raise funds for Post Traumatic Stress Disorder & Depression within the First Responder community (his bike and walk through the entire nation) and for Leukemia and Blood Cancer of New Zealand (
Sky Tower Challenge
). Maaka served in the Middle East and found when he returned to his work as a Firefighter in New Zealand, he personally experienced a lot of post traumatic stress disorder and depression. He knew he needed to seek out professional help and realised there are others in his same situation serving in first responder roles who also may need professional mental help.
"I walked, ran, cycled the length of NZ to raise awareness about Post Traumatic Stress Disorder and Depression within the First Responder community, Police, Fire and Ambulance. The aim was to encourage First Responders to seek professional help with any work related mental issues. And not to bottle them up out of fear of the stigma or perception percieved by others etc. But to be open and learn from their work related experiences." -Maaka McKinney
"In total with the challenge that I had laid in front of me , I knew my body was going to be put through its paces and more importantly, I had to
develop ways to combat likely injuries
. I left Bluff, NZ and over a 1 month period with no support crew, living off pretty much what I carried on my back, I headed North. "
"My shoulders, followed by my back, and then knees finally my feet slowly started to give me major problems. Luckily my feet, although blistered, managed to survive ok thanks to Jean from Resonance Aspiring Podiatry meeting me at Lake Taupo with a pair of Formthotics to fit in my cycling shoes and hiking boots.
moulded to my feet easily and gave great support especially along undulating ground and even when my feet and socks were wet from crossing through creeks. They quickly dried over night and were ready to go the next day. The other thing I found about Formthotics was they also fitted into my boots firmly thus minimising movement within the boot."
It was a tremendous effort Maaka did in 17 days of raising awareness about depression and PTSD within the first responder community and encouraging our Police Officers Firefighters and Ambulance Officers to access professional help if experiencing work related mental issues. He stopped at numerous places to meet first responders and see a lot of these heros he knows. It raised a great awareness for the entire country of NZ. Article and Video Link from NZ Herald
Maaka journeyed by foot all the way up the North island to Auckland to join other first resonders to climb the steps of the Sky Tower with all of their gear (25KG +) to raise funds for
Leukemia & Blood Cancer NZ.
Overall, $1.65 million was raised through the
Sky Tower Challenge
and Maaka raised $16,430 of these funds! He was met that morning in Auckland before the climb with an emotional Haka ceremony. Then they took the 20 minute challenge to run up
51 flights, 1,103 steps wearing 25kg of kit breathing apparatus!
After climbing the tower with other firefighters, army members, ambulance responders and police officer
s, Maaka continued for the next 5 days on foot up to the top of the North island to Cape Reinga. The full 1800 KM challenge, plus 51 flights of steps wearing 25 kg of gear - all in 17 days.
"I completed my journey and made it to the Cape. A very hilly route getting there.
"Completing my journey has now found me with mixed emotions. Sad, as I'm actually going to miss living on the road and slogging my body everyday and pushing the limits. Sad, because I met so many beautiful people and received so much love and support from all of you. I'm going to miss that. Happy though as I can now rest and look forward to the "What next?""
"This journey has developed my passion to now think of ways how I can use my experience to assist, support and educate our first responders through PTSD and Depression. And so I am seriously looking into setting up a charitable organisation that can achieve these aims. Arohanui ki a koutou katoa whānau. Thank you "