It doesn’t look like the doorway to a life changed forever – a small gap between the yellow brickwork of a building that also houses a Chinese restaurant, off the main stretch of Lilydale in Melbourne’s outer east.
But beyond that gap is a shabby staircase, that has carried thousands of teens upward and onto a new path of hope.
Beck Mitchell was 17 years old when she first walked through the doors of “Bridge Builders” youth charity, the organisation that sits at the top of those shabby stairs.
Back then, Beck was a bleached-blonde, stand-offish type who was struggling socially and academically, thanks in-part to an alternative childhood.
More than a decade on and now 31, she’s about to make history.
Next year, Beck aims to become the fifth Australian woman to run seven marathons on seven continents in just seven days.
When Beck first arrived at “Bridge Builders” it operated out of a different location in Lilydale, but the mission was the same: to change young lives.
“Bridge Builders” was founded by youth worker Phil Stenhouse in 2002.
The plan was to reach out to at-risk kids and give school officers, families and local authorities a place to send them.
“They may have self harm issues, they could have addictions issues,” Phil told 9News.
“But any young person that comes through the door, we never look at them and go: there’s just a young person. We say: let’s get to know you and love you”.
Beck Mitchell was referred by a welfare officer in 2005 and Phil still remembers the first day she walked in.
“So I met her, and I swear she looked like a feral chicken. She came off a farm and she used to have some really strange behaviours,” he recalls with a chuckle.
Beck’s upbringing would be strange to many.
Her parents didn’t believe in sending her to primary school and instead, Beck worked on her family’s small chicken farm.
“When I realised I couldn’t write my own name by the age of 10 and couldn’t do my times tables, I realised I was in a pretty tough situation,” she remembers.
When Beck hit high school, she was targeted by bullies for being different.
“I developed a negative perspective of who I was and where I was going. My perception of myself was really distorted” she bravely recounts to 9News.
Beck had body image issues that manifested in an eating disorder, which is what had her referred to “Bridge Builders”.
On her first visit, Beck had come straight from the farm.
Phil says, “She came in and she had chicken stuff all over her and I said, ‘Don’t ever turn up looking like that’ and I sent her home. To her credit she came back.”
Beck laughs upon hearing the story again years later.
“Don’t turn up straight off a chicken farm is the moral of that story.”
But Beck kept returning and found something she’d never experienced before at the weekly skills workshops and support sessions.
“(Bridge Builders) just made me feel like it was a safe space, where I could be myself. That was the first time in my life that I felt that.”
Phil Stenhouse and his tough-love approach transformed Beck slowly into a confident, productive and achieving person.
“It is beyond words to say how proud I am – to be part of 15 years of watching a young woman develop,” says Phil.
Beck is one of 40,000 kids that Phil has assisted since the charity began.
Eventually, Beck would dedicate her life to helping kids just like her, becoming second-in-command of “Bridge Builders”.
As a life-long runner, Beck would turn her passion into a fundraising venture for the group.
In 2012, she founded ‘Run for the Young’, a marathon event in Melbourne’s east that raised money for “Bridge Builders”. Unsure of how it would it go, team members were shocked when almost 100 people gathered at the start line to run for the cause.
A year or so later, Beck would have another idea and this is the one that could make history.
The World Marathon Challenge accepts around forty people every year to attempt a remarkable feat: running seven marathons on seven different continents in just one week.
Next February, Beck will try to become the fifth Australian woman to complete it.
“I want to raise a quarter of a million dollars for the charity (“Bridge Builders”) and assist young people every day through the programs they are running,” Beck states.
She already has the support of the well-known de Bortoli wine-making family.
Beck’s challenge starts in Antarctica on February 6 next year. From there, she will run in South Africa (Africa), Perth (Australia), Dubai (Asia), Madrid (Europe), Santiago (South America) and Miami (North America).
Participants cover 196km in 168 hours. Runners are transported between courses by a specially chartered plane.
For now, Beck is completely focused on training. But that doesn’t mean that she’s undaunted by the task ahead.
“There is a lot of people following the journey and I want to be that inspiration. So if I was to fail, that would be really sad,” she says slowly.
Her mentor Phil Stenhouse doesn’t hold such reservations.
He has already seen Beck surpass the expectations of herself and others.
“There is absolutely no doubt in my mind that she will make it,” Phil says of the challenge.
Between now and February, Beck is spending at least 32 hours a week in her black trainers, pounding the cream gravel paths of Lilydale.
9NEWS joined her one morning as she leapt across a creek and galloped down a line of gumtrees, always pushing on at an impressive pace.
She appeared unstoppable, running on towards her goal.
Those same feet that took her up those shabby stairs all those years ago are looking very ready to carry Beck around the world.
WATCH BECK MITCHELL’S STORY on 9NEWS. IF YOU WANT TO SUPPORT BECK AND BRIDGE BUILDERS, YOU CAN FIND MORE INFORMATION HERE.