Wagga runner throws her support behind Bravehearts' White Balloon Day

HELPING KIDS: Izzi Hutchinson is encouraging Wagga schools and community groups to join in White Balloon Day. Picture: Les Smith

HELPING KIDS: Izzi Hutchinson is encouraging Wagga schools and community groups to join in White Balloon Day. Picture: Les Smith

IZZI Hutchinson was looking for a new challenge when she read about the Bravehearts 777 Marathon.

As a runner who has completed several marathons as well as the Big Red Run – a 250-kilometre, multi-day event in the Simpson Desert – she was drawn to the challenge of completing seven marathons in seven days in seven states.

But Bravehearts and child sexual abuse were issues she was not really aware of.

That changed when Ms Hutchinson began pounding the roads and hearing first-hand from child sexual abuse survivors and their families.

“We were doing fundraising beforehand, but it wasn’t until the marathons, we saw people who would walk with us, or just run a few kilometres and they began to really share their stories, when I understood how devastating the abuse is,” she said.

“So many people just wanted to be there, wanted to be involved.

“I had complete strangers coming up and telling me their stories and some of these stories are absolutely horrific.”

It was hearing these stories that turned Ms Hutchinson from a runner doing a charity run to a passionate supporter of the work of Bravehearts.

She is now spreading the work about the child protection charity and encouraging Wagga residents and groups to support White Balloon Day on September 8.

“There are so many great ways people of all ages can get involved with White Balloon Day this year,” Ms Hutchinson said.

“You can register an event and fundraise or you can take part in the National Chalk Art Project.”

The Chalk Art Project will encourage schools and budding artists of all ages to ‘Chalk It Up’ for Aussie kids.

Children will be encouraged to create a chalk mural or drawing of their own design and share images of their work on social media using the hashtag #ChalkItUp.

Each piece of art must include a white balloon, which is used by Bravehearts as a symbol of hope.

“I don’t have kids yet, but I don’t want them to go through something like child sexual abuse and I wouldn’t want their friends to have to go through it either,” Ms Hutchinson said.

“It is estimated one in five people under the age of 18 are abused in some way. When you think about  this, it’s frightening.”

For more information on White Balloon Day, or Bravehearts, go to www.whiteballoonday.com.au