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Local Dad to Run ‘Toughest Footrace on Earth’ Marathon des Sables

By Tara Hayes on March 28, 2018 in News

Stefan and Thomas preparing for the big race, by Jason McCormack.

The thought of running a marathon is daunting enough for most of us, let alone completing six in as many days. That’s the challenge facing local dad Stefan Briggs, who will take on an ultra-marathon in April to raise $50,000 for Giant Steps, a school supporting children and young people diagnosed with autism.
Marathon des Sables sees competitors from all over the world face gruelling terrain and conditions as they venture over 250 kilometres in six days through the Sahara desert in Southern Morocco.
“We can expect to run over sand dunes, rocky, shaley ground, and over mountains as well,” Mr Briggs told The Beast.
“You carry all your own food and equipment on your back, and you’re completely self-sufficient over the week, save that they give you water each day and they set up a tent for you each night that you share with other competitors.”
The annual ultra-marathon, with recorded temperatures reaching an almost unbearable 50 degrees in the past, has attracted over 13,000 competitors since its inception in 1986.
The test of physical and mental endurance is known as the ‘toughest footrace on earth,’ but Mr Briggs said it does not come close to the daily challenges faced by those diagnosed with autism.
The father-of-three knows first-hand how valuable Giant Steps’ programs are, not only to the school’s many students but to their families as well.
The charity school and intervention centre in Gladesville helps those between the ages of two and 26 with a diagnosis of Autism Spectrum Disorder.
“The support they provide is just first-class, and it’s backed by international research as to what the best techniques are,” Mr Briggs said.
“You’ve got a ratio of almost one to one in terms of staff members to students; it really is a fantastic school for kids experiencing autism who may struggle in other environments.”
Mr Briggs’ 12-year-old son Thomas, a regular Bondi swimmer and movie lover, has found schooling environments challenging in the past. Since moving to Giant Steps last year, everything has turned around.

“Tom has settled in so nicely and we’ve seen a big improvement in his behaviour and his demeanour since he’s been there; he has just done so well,” Mr Briggs told The Beast.
It comes as no surprise that Thomas and his family are among many that praise Giant Steps’ world-leading programs. All students have the opportunity to reach their full potential through occupational, speech and music therapies, combined with the educational curriculum.
Giant Steps Sydney, alongside its newly opened school in Melbourne, charges no fees and receives less than half of their required operating costs through Government funding. Contributions and fundraisers like Stefan’s are relied on to raise the majority of funding.
Mr Briggs has undergone months of around-the-clock training, running on our coastal footpaths and at the Cronulla sand dunes, to prepare for this mammoth race.
“Stefan is taking on an enormous challenge in an amazing effort to raise much-needed funds for the school,” Giant Steps’ National Funding Director Michelle Jocum told The Beast.
With 1 in every 100 children now diagnosed with autism, every donation, no matter how big or how small, will go a long way in helping loved members of our community.
“Giant Steps is unique in that it offers children with Autism the opportunity to grow and develop and reach goals that we previously thought to be unattainable,” Ms Jocum said.
“The value added to the families of our children goes far beyond a child being able to communicate and play with their siblings; it gives families hope for the future.”
The expenses for the ultra-marathon have been totally self-funded by Mr Briggs, with every dollar raised going directly towards the charity.
Let’s all get behind Stefan’s fantastic effort in support of Giant Steps and help him reach his goal of $50,000!

Giant Steps is a registered charity, allowing all donations to be totally tax deductible. All contributions, no matter the size, are greatly appreciated. To donate to Stefan’s race and help raise much-needed funds for the Giant Steps school, please visit give.everydayhero.com/au/marathon-des-sables.

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