Youth with Autism First to Reach Peak of “Mt Fuji” in Nationwide Challenge

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Ahead of over 430 participants from the public, YMCA Special Needs Ambasador with autism Gareth Chua was the first to summit Mt Fuji virtually.  

The 21-year-old youth with autism achieved over 3,776m of elevation, the height of Mt Fuji, in little over a month by hiking and jogging around Singapore. Other participants, including 7 other ambassadors with special needs such as visual impairments, cerebral palsy, Down syndrome, global development delay and a stroke survivor, are striving to complete their endeavours by 29 May. 

The YMCA Special Needs Inclusive Challenge 2021 is an extension of the first-ever YMCA Inclusive Climb 2019, which saw 10 persons with special needs undergo intensive physical training before attempting to summit Japan’s tallest mountain, Mt Fuji. It was part of a YMCA special needs programme that builds confidence, resilience and independence for persons with special needs. Through the YMCA Special Needs Inclusive Challenge 2021, we aim to raise $250,000 to sustain YMCA sports, arts and employment programmes. Thus far, over $80,000 has been raised with the help of over 430 participants. 

Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the YMCA Special Needs Inclusive Challenge 2021 takes place virtually within Singapore this year. Over 430 members of the public have already signed up to join the challenge, where they take on the challenge of summiting Mt Fuji virtually through hikes around Singapore alongside 8 special needs ambassadors, or attempt to walk, run, or cycle 125km, equivalent to the perimeter of Mt Fuji.  

Participants of the challenge strive to raise funds and awareness for YMCA special needs programmes through publicising their profile pages and other creative campaigns. Gareth’s efforts have single-handedly garnered over $3,000 in donations, while other participants have launched individual initiatives such as pledging distances for donations among their loved ones, or distributing home-cooked food in appreciation of their support. 

“I feel excellent! I am more confident in myself and would like to thank everyone who supported me while I was hiking and jogging. I would take part in this again!” said Gareth Chua.  

Other YMCA special needs ambassadors taking on the challenge include visually-impaired local musician and winner of Project Superstar 2005, Kelvin Tan Wei Lian, author and motivational speaker with cerebral palsy Oh Siew May, and para-athletes Darren Chua and Siau Ek Jin, among others. 

The YMCA Special Needs Challenge 2021 is open from now till 29 May 2021. Members of the public are welcome to join the challenge individually or in teams. Alternatively, they may read more and support the cause through a direct donation at http://fuji.ymca.org.sg/.