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A fortuitous posting was the only impetus required to inspire a journey to Hopevale. 

When Deb Kiriona’s son, Pat Preston was posted to Hopevale as primary school teacher, Deb and her nephew Jakob Kennerson decided to embark on a journey from Brisbane to Hopevale to visit. 

To bring the smile on a few small Hopevale faces, they decided to collect any excess footy gear along the way.  Little did they expect the response they received.

“Our goal was to collect a few pairs of footy boots,” said Deb’s daughter Ayesha Kiriona. 

Hopevale is a remote community in Cape York, west of Cooktown and sports shops are “few and far between”, according to Kiriona.

And so on the March 3, the journey to Hopevale began. From Coolum to Cooktown, communities welcomed the pair, and donated a mountain of rugby league gear.

“There were eight checkpoints along the way, but some stops were unplanned,” she said.

Due to the amount of gear, the pair held sausage sizzles along the way so they could afford the postage. 

“We never received any sponsorship, but so many people helped out along the way.” 

The Koha Shed Australia, Andrew Higgens, Laurie-Anne Saggus, Alex and Dan, Mac Kay Warner, Shaun Harper, Brooke Bergeson, Teneille Higgins, Marnie Kelly, Kate Lingard, Chrissy, Sean, Bronni and Rod, Principal Deej from Silkwood School, Followmont trucks and Tuxworth trucks, John from Pack and Send, Mackay Brothers Bulldogs and the Bowen Seagulls all played a part in the success of the journey. 

“It took many to make this dream a reality, many friends were made along the way, there were plenty of laughs, plenty of fun.  It was an adventure and the memories will last a lifetime.” 

After battling through a cyclone and heavy rain, a major highlight of the journey was making it to the Cowboys game.

“Both Mum and Jake love the Cowboys, particularly Jonathan Thurston,” Ayesha said.

And 57 days after the journey began the gear was distributed to the children of Hopevale on the April 29.

Daughter Ayesha isn’t sure what Deb will get up to next, but it will ‘definitely be focussed on footy’. 

It was truly an inspirational journey and the children of Hopevale will without doubt be running around wearing a pair of footy shoes, or footy shorts, or a footy jersey that came from another little boy or girl in another part of the state who shares the same dream; to play the greatest game of all!

We would like to thank Deb. Your goal to make some little people smile has been achieved, and the rugby league community is richer for your efforts. 

For more details, check out their Facebook page:

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