TWO 17-year-old mates recently set out to shed light on an important issue that sits closely with them; and one that weighs on the shoulders of so many young people in this generation.

Best mates Cooper Walsh (from Moe) and Mitch Sexton (Trafalgar) decided they would set out and do something by supporting those they know who have experienced battles with mental health, and honour those who’ve tragically fell victim to it.

The boys elected to do a run starting at the Moe Library through to George Bates Reserve in Yallourn North that totalled more than 27km.

Sexton organised the initiative by taking part in Do It for Dolly Day this May, and raised over $1200 for mental health and anti-bullying organisation Dolly’s Dream in preparation for the run.

“I was worried as I was going to do the run myself until one of my best mates Coop stuck his hand up and said he’d be keen for the journey,” Sexton said.

“So he jumped on board and helped with everything and we really started to get up with the donations and support from everyone.”

The two not only gained support from friends and family, but also saw backing from another mental health not-for-profit in Speak and Share.

“Mitch sent Speak and Share a message and they said they were going to send us some hats and some socks for the run, which was just amazing,” Walsh said.

When it was go time, both of them did the best they could to motivate each other as they readied themselves for the run.

“At the start of the day, me and Coop Facetimed and we were both pretty hyped up, dancing to music and we were feeling good and that energy carried out non-stop (throughout) the day,” Sexton said.

The boys were supported at the start line by fellow mates Ryley Cumiskey and Lachlan Wallace as members of their tight-knit clan led them off on their journey.

Walsh and Sexton nearly lapped Moe before making their way to the Newborough to commence their race down the Moe/Yallourn Rail Trail towards the Yallourn Yallourn North Football-Netball Club home base.

The vibes were up the first 15 or so kilometres, before the tough part began and they really had to find that extra something within to get them through to the end.

Great job young men: Cooper and Mitch during their run. Photograph supplied

“(It) was just singing and dancing our way along and then our final stretch out to Yallourn North was just pushing each other and hyping each other up to get through the last leg,” Sexton said.

During their outing, as they pressed on down the town roads, cars tooted in encouragement as they drove past just as the boys were seeing the faded horizon.

“It’s things like that (which) helped us finish the run. We will never forget the people that we lost and we will never let their legacy die,” Walsh said.

Both young men have themselves experienced awful inner conflicts, and like many, have seen families and friend groups’ shattered in the wake of some unthinkable events.

“Me and Coop have both gone through our own mental health battles and lost friends and family, so it’s something we’re really trying to get awareness out about,” Sexton said candidly.

For Walsh, he lost his older cousin, Riley Pearce in 2021, which affected an entire community.

“Seeing the pain that his mum and dad and his two brothers went through and are still going through to this day breaks me,” Walsh confided.

The Pearce and Walsh family have since done extraordinary things in tribute to Riley’s fight, with initiatives like the ‘Walk with Chop’ and other works with community mental health organisation Mindfull Aus.

“I’ve lost mates to suicide and me and Mitch needed to do something about it. We couldn’t just sit back and not take action,” Walsh added.

It’s efforts like this one that personify the leaps society has made due to the intelligence and courage that younger people of today display that brings forth awareness, change, and regard for one’s wellbeing.


If you or someone you know is struggling, support is available.

Lifeline: 13 11 14

Beyond Blue: 1300 22 4636

Kid’s Helpline: 1800 55 1800