The thought of a 100 mile trek on foot through the bush in South Africa would be daunting enough for anyone – but facing the challenge during snake season, when you have a snake phobia, would probably put most people off entirely.

Justin Wright, Co-Founder of local family charity WOLO, is not most people. No stranger to athletic challenges, Justin and a team of brave volunteers are due to embark on the enormous WOLO 100 challenge from 1st-10th October, which will see them running and hiking for 10 days through the province of KwaZulu Natal to reach their 100-mile target.

But Justin’s enthusiasm for the event, which aims to raise money for families in Sussex affected by cancer, hit a hurdle when wildlife experts helping him organise the event mentioned that the dates fell during snake season – a fact that filled him with total fear.

On hearing about the worries Justin had, Drusillas Zoo, who supports WOLO as their charity of the year, thought their collection of friendly snakes might be able to help. Drusillas invited Justin along to a private snake introduction session to attempt to alleviate some of his anxiety around these much-maligned animals.

Justin, along with his wife and WOLO Co-Founder Fler Wright, and their family and friends, visited the zoo to see if Justin could get past his worries and set him up for a more successful African adventure, should a snake cross his path during the trek.

Head of Education at the Zoo, James Woodward, slowly and calmly introduced Justin to Maize the corn snake, Henty the milk snake, and big boy Tilk the royal python – animals who regularly meet with school groups as part of the park’s education offering. Initially Justin

struggled to bring himself to touch any of the snakes with even a single finger, gasping ‘oh my goodness’ and ‘get the head away from me’ on several occasions whilst visibly trembling. But, with some gentle encouragement and a patient approach, Justin eventually was able to not only touch the animals but built his confidence up to a lovely moment where Tilk the royal python fell asleep sweetly in his arms.

Justin commented after the encounter: “I want to say I feel really happy and snakes are actually kind of cool, in the nicest possible way! That was really big for me, and I’m really proud of myself. There’s something in me that now kind of hopes I do see a snake out there, as that will be the real proof of whether my phobia has been cured. It was an incredible experience, thank you to Drusillas, and I look forward to telling everyone about our adventure when we come back. If you are able to support WOLO and our fundraiser, please donate via the JustGiving page.”

Wolo Foundation help families living in Sussex through their cancer journeys. They support them by offering practical help and support to make their day-to-day lives easier. They work with local businesses and communities to offer families a wealth of services to support them through their diagnosis, treatment and beyond. Statistics show that 1 in 2 people in the UK born after 1960 will be diagnosed with cancer in their lifetime. Life is precious – we need to make the most of it – we only live once – WOLO!

The WOLO 100 challenge will culminate in the release of a wild giraffe as part of a conservation effort for this vulnerable species. In support, Drusillas Park are giving away a family ticket bundle as the prize for a naming competition for the giraffe. Entries are open on their Facebook page until 14th October.