Mark Hughes Foundation takes on 'scary' Mt Kilimanjaro climb

Mark Hughes realises climbing Mt Kilimanjaro will be "scary" and "tough".

But the ex-Knights player considers it a minor inconvenience compared to the battles brain cancer patients face daily.

After the success of June's NRL Beanie for Brain Cancer Round, the Mark Hughes Foundation will trek the world's tallest free-standing mountain in mid-October to continue its fundraising efforts.

Hughes, Roosters coach Trent Robinson, Newcastle legend Danny Buderus and recently retired Titans fullback Michael Gordon are among 20 supporters undertaking the 5895-metre ascent in Tanzania.

"We can do this for a couple of weeks and challenge ourselves. There are people out there doing it much tougher," Hughes, who was diagnosed with brain cancer in 2013, told NRL.com.

With a target of $600,000, all proceeds are going towards a new Brain Care Coordinator position to cover regional NSW areas like Coffs Harbour, Port Macquarie and Tamworth.

Brain cancer patients living in rural locations often struggle after returning home from city treatments without an expert nearby.

Mark Hughes accepts a cheque during Beanie For Brain Cancer Round.
Mark Hughes accepts a cheque during Beanie For Brain Cancer Round. ©Shane Myers/NRL Photos

The foundation has already funded a specialist brain care nurse in Newcastle.

Over the past three years, the foundation has conquered the Kokoda Track, Mount Everest Base Camp and The Sandakan Death March Borneo, raising more than $1 million.

Hughes has been training in an air-locker altitude gym to prepare for the next gruelling task. 

"The altitude will get scary but I love the tough challenges. That's what people with cancer and their families are facing every day," Hughes said.

Sydney Roosters coach Trent Robinson.
Sydney Roosters coach Trent Robinson. ©Nathan Hopkins/NRL Photos

Robinson, who bonded with Hughes when he was an assistant coach at the Knights from 2007-09, jumped at the opening to push his limits for an outstanding cause.

"Anything that we can do to support a great foundation and raise money for it is the right thing to do," Robinson told NRL.com.

"It was a good opportunity for me to finally do something. And then on a personal note, it's a really tough thing to do.

"I want to do a physical challenge to test and improve myself as well. Mark's offered me that opportunity and I can't wait to do it with him."

Hughes's premiership-winning Knights teammate Adam MacDougall and his company The Man Shake have once again backed the initiative with a $100,000 donation – totalling over $500,000 they've given to the charity overall.

"I'm blown away," Hughes said. "Much like Adam's products change lives with weight loss, he's changing the lives of people with brain cancer."

MacDougall laughed as he remembered first agreeing to help his great friend's foundation, not knowing how little funds he had in the early stages of The Man Shake.

Knights Hall of Famer Danny Buderus.
Knights Hall of Famer Danny Buderus. ©Grant Trouville/NRL Photos

"Mark said he had an idea to go on a bit of an adventure fundraiser to raise some money and awareness for brain cancer," MacDougall said.

"I said, 'How much money do you need?' and he said, 'I'd love to be able to raise over $100,000'. I said to him, 'Well, mate, how about I give you the money you want?'

"I went home and told my wife. At that stage we had literally $135 in our business bank account. It gave me some motivation to make sure we sold some shakes so I could give Mark the $100,000 I promised him!"

And while MacDougall remains committed to financially supporting the Mark Hughes Foundation, he hopes a larger business can step up as a major sponsor to boost the charity to another level.

Mark Hughes Foundation supporter Michael Gordon.
Mark Hughes Foundation supporter Michael Gordon. ©Grant Trouville/NRL Photos

"I'd love to see a big corporation come in and whack a million dollars into the charity to really give it some much-needed funds," MacDougall said.

"That's my dream for the charity."

The foundation raised an amazing $3.1 million during the third annual Beanie For Brain Cancer Round earlier this season and Hughes said the positive impact from the event is still being felt.

"NRL Beanie Round is certainly the centre point of our foundation and we just get the ripple effect off that," Hughes said.

As for his health, Hughes reported he was "feeling good and feeling the support" ahead of a regular brain scan.

 

You can support the Mark Hughes Foundation's Mt Kilimanjaro trek fundraiser by donating to one of the climbers here or to the foundation here.