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KOTA KINABALU, Aug 7, 2015:

This year’s Coalition Duchenne Expedition Mount Kinabalu will be climbing to 11,000 feet to honour those who lost their lives in the June 5earthquake.

They are led by Coalition Duchenne founder and executive director Catherine Jayasuriya, who said apart from honouring those killed in the quake, they also hope to raise awareness and funding for Duchenne muscular dystrophy.

“This year, we will not be able to reach the summit due to ongoing trail restoration efforts by Sabah Parks, but we are resolute in completing a modified expedition. This is our fifth time,” said the Kota Kinabalu native.

Jayasuriya has always dreamed of taking her children to the summit of the mountain, but her son, Dusty Brandom, suffers from Duchenne and would never make the climb.

“At 22, Dusty is in a wheelchair and severely impacted by the muscle wasting disease,” she said.

The climb would also be significant to one Paul Wong from Kuala Lumpur as he decided to join the programme in memory of his son Albert, who passed away in 2014 from Duchenne.

“Against all odds, Albert had successfully completed his studies in law and was helping develop brain actuated disabled equipment.

“Their bodies fail them, but their mind and dreams are strong,” said Jayasuriya.

“Dusty is my daily inspiration and he inspires everyone he knows as he overcomes personal adversity with a smile on his face. I climb for him.”

Over the years, Expedition Mt Kinabalu has become a showcase of both Sabah’s natural treasures and Sabahan kindness.

With the state rebuilding after the earthquake, the organisers wanted to share the stories of Sabah’s resilience and heroism with the charity’s followers around the world while drawing parallels with the struggles and heroism of those with Duchenne.

This year’s Coalition Duchenne’s Expedition Mount Kinabalu will be accompanied by executives from Sabah Parks.

The restoration of the mountain trails is nearing completion and the mountain will be opening in stages.

Coalition Duchenne’s Expedition Mount Kinabalu will be the first group, outside of workers and Sabah parks staff, to tackle the trail to Laban Rata since the earthquake.

“It is important to take the first steps back up the mountain,” said State Tourism, Culture and Environment Minister Datuk Seri Masidi Manjun.

“One thing that the earthquake cannot shake is that this is the place of our ancestors. I am a Dusun and I share this with Catherine, whose grandmother was a Kadazan, an understanding of the importance of the mountain. It is so close to the hearts of all of us in the state.”

The mountain was also close to the heart of Robbi Sapinggi, one of the mountain guides who died in the June earthquake.

He had helped Jayasuriya with her Expedition every year. Three other mountain climbers killed in the.earthquake were Valerian Joannes, Ricky Masirin and Joseph Solugin.

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