Off the mountain, through the desert and into the Yukon Wilderness… Living on the Bunya Mountains for more than 20 years, you would expect Jenepher Hintz to be accustomed to a slower pace of life. However, life threw a curve ball her way. Just 10 months after Jenepher and her policeman husband Hintzy were married 31 years ago, he suffered a brain tumour, multiple strokes and an aneurysm, leading to the need for full-time care. Until recently, Jenepher has juggled her role as full-timecarer with that of part-time property/ office manager and volunteer for the Bunya Mountains Rural Fire Brigade.

Sometimes needing a break from caring for Hintzy, Jenepher realised the gaping hole that exists in the care system which is fundamentally set up for the elderly with an average age of 83 years. This is clearly not acceptable when the loved one in your care is under 30 with the rest of their lives in front of them. Jenepher discovered Youngcare, a charity with a facility in Brisbane for younger people with high care needs. Although the Youngcare facility is not close enough to be of benefit to her husband, she has thrown herself into promoting the organisation through some exceptional endeavours.

For Jenepher it all began with a newsletter emailed in 2011 seeking expressions of interest for participants for a “once in a lifetime” fundraising adventure – Youngcare’s Simpson Desert Challenge. This involved eight 12-hour days of walking 220 kilometres across the Simpson Desert from Dalhousie Springs to Birdsville, battling flies, mice and heat in a beautiful yet unforgiving landscape. This sounds like a mighty effort in itself, but on top of that, $35,000 was required to participate. Hintzy told his wife, “You’re bloody mad.”

Taking that as a positive inspiration, she went for it — keeping a fitness regime and fundraising agenda not for the faint hearted. Perhaps she truly is mad, as 2013 saw Jenepher once again take on the Simpson Desert Challenge. With these two challenges, she has raised $88,000 towards the work of Youngcare — providing freedom of choice with supported housing, home care grants, information and research programs. In January 2018, Jenepher again took up the challenge for Youngcare. This adventure required learning to dog sled and bond with her team of huskies in the Canadian Yukon wilderness with temperatures down to 30 degrees below zero. Again, the requisite was $35,000.

How does one take on a challenge that requires such a large commitment to participate you may ask? Fundamentally, it is the passion to help her husband and others in his situation live a life where they have the freedom to choose where they live. Jen acknowledges the support of a fabulous circle of friends who help with her fundraising, as well as generous local businesses. “The sense of community we have on the Bunya Mountains is terrific. It would be so much harder to do it without their unwavering support!” After another recent health incident, full-time care for Hintzy in an aged care facility has become a necessary reality.

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