Fight like Fred: Joel’s ultra-marathon for his dad

Joel Van Oosten’s dad, Fred, has been living with MS for 27 years.

Joel has been with his dad every step of the way to fight the disease. But when the COVID-19 pandemic hit, Fred’s health deteriorated significantly, and he was admitted to hospital. With Joel living in metro Melbourne and his family down south in Geelong, he was unable to be with his father in person due to Melbourne’s 20-week lockdown.

Joel used the challenging time to set himself a positive goal to work towards, and established his fundraiser, ‘Fight Like Fred’, to raise funds for MS research in support of Fred’s ongoing battle with the disease.

“Dad has done an amazing job, as has my mum caring for him. We were very lucky in many ways, however, it’s never easy to watch a loved one’s function slowly be taken away from them,” Joel says.

To raise the funds, Joel committed to training for the Surf Coast Century, a 50km ultra-marathon along Victoria’s surf coast and hinterland – despite never having completed a run beyond a marathon distance before. But Joel wanted to take it even further and signed up for the 100km run!

“I thought it would inspire my Dad to keep working hard whilst also being a great reason to raise funds for MS research.”

After signing up, Joel called one of his best friends hoping that he would pace for him or even crew the event, but instead, he surprised him and signed up to run!

Several other friends have also joined the ‘Fight for Fred’ fundraiser – three other 100km runners, two 50km runners, three 100km relay teams (each completing 25kms) and several 10km walk participants. The team has even gone international, with participants spanning across Australia, New Zealand and England! Joel’s friends in England have challenged themselves to cycle 100km a week for one month, whilst a New Zealand friend is completing a half Iron Man.

Even from a distance, Joel and his friends have come together in support of life-changing MS research for one incredible man, Fred.

One of the many highlights for Joel so far has been “inspiring Dad and having him be touched and proud that we’re doing this for him and others living with MS, whilst also contributing to finding a cure.”

The team is now getting ready for the Surf Coast Century which is starting soon and have already raised a whopping $8,570 to help our researchers continue their invaluable research into MS.

Both Joel and Fred have been very touched and uplifted by the support, commitment and energy that friends and family have shown through their own participation and donations.

At MS Research Australia, we’re fortunate enough to have a dedicated group of supporters like Joel and his friends who are powering MS research. It is this support that helps us fund the research that will ultimately lead to a world free from MS.

“My family’s wish is for a future free of multiple sclerosis, and for others not to have to experience what my father and our family has.”

Stay up to date with the Fight Like Fred team here >

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Fight like Fred: Joel’s ultra-marathon for his dad