Holly's wheelchair mountain challenge for Martin House Children's Hospice

Holly Walker won't be letting a wheelchair hold her back when she ascends Pen-y-ghent to raise money for Martin House Children’s Hospice next month.

Tuesday, 18th May 2021, 4:45 am
Updated Tuesday, 18th May 2021, 10:12 am
From left: Kingsley Simmons and Phil Lee of Kuta Outdoors with Holly Walker and family members Julie, Lee and Elliot Walker.

The 23-year-old from Pontefract, who has Rett syndrome and receives care from the hospice, will take on the challenge with her family as part of Martin House’s One Peak Wander on Saturday June 12.

She will be helped by a team from hiking experts Kuta Outdoors, which is helping to organise the event for Martin House, while the rest of her family - mum Julie, 50, dad Lee, 51, sisters Isobel and Phoebe, 15, and brother Elliot, 1 - will also be taking part and supporting her in the climb.

Julie said: “We have always taken Holly everywhere, we’ve travelled the world with her and have never let it limit us, but we’ve never tried something like this before with her.

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“We’ve been walking more through lockdown, and got Holly a new buggy that has made it much easier for her to access the outdoors than in her wheelchair, so when I saw the One Peak Wander I wondered if it would be possible.

“I only asked if it would be accessible, and it escalated.

"Martin House and Kuta were really enthusiastic and are determined to make a massive memory for her.

"I’m a bit apprehensive, but we will never get the opportunity to do something like this with Holly ever again, so we are embracing it.

"It will be the most emotional and physical journey for our family and everyone involved.”

A team of around eight will be harnessed to Holly’s buggy, while Lee and Julie will have to physically lift her out of the chair and carry her at points on the route.

The family will then take part in a den building competition at the top.

The Kuta team and Martin House have also held a training session at Otley Chevin with the family, to practice how they will help Holly on the day.

Sara Cracknell, events fundraiser at Martin House, said: “We wanted to do everything we could to make sure Holly and her family could have this experience, and the team at Kuta was just as keen to make it happen.

“The care team at Martin House always go above and beyond to give children and young people unforgettable experiences, and it’s really lovely that as fundraisers we’re also able to help one of our families make a special memory like this.”

Phil Lee, owner of Kuta Outdoors, said: “We have a team of volunteers, a safety team and mountain leaders ready to assist with Holly's Mountain Challenge and very much look forward to helping this remarkable and loving family to achieve their goal of getting Holly up and down Pen-y-Ghent safely.

"We are also delighted to be able to assist Martin House too, we consider it a great responsibility and privilege.”

Martin House cares for babies, children and young people with life-limiting conditions from across West, North and East Yorkshire, providing respite stays, symptom control, end of life care, care after death and bereavement support.

Rett syndrome is a rare genetic disorder that affects brain development, resulting in mental and physical disabilities, and Holly has been using Martin House since she was 13.

Julie added: “Martin House has been a lifeline for us. When we first started going, it was the first time I had slept through the night.

“Holly has probably deteriorated quite a bit during lockdown. I think people forget that someone with disabilities can be as affected mentally as the rest of us. She hasn’t seen her friends or grandparents for a long time.

“She seems happy some days, but some days she’s fed up. But hopefully we will be able to get back to her normal activities – she goes horse riding and swimming, as things open up again.”

You can support Holly and her family’s fundraising at www.justgiving.com/fundraising/TeamHolly97.

There is also still time to sign up to the One Peak Wander, at www.martinhouse.org.uk/onepeakchallenge. It costs £15 for adults and £5 for children, with a £50 sponsorship target.

There is also a Yorkshire Three Peaks challenge on the same day for Martin House. Visit www.martinhouse.org.uk/threepeakschallenge to find out more.

*Every year Martin House supports over 420 children and young people and their families plus more than 150 bereaved families across West, North and East Yorkshire, at our hospice, in hospitals and in families’ own homes.

The hospice, based in Boston Spa, has nine bedrooms in Martin House, and six in Whitby Lodge, which cares for teenagers and young people. Services include respite stays, symptom control, emergency care, community care and end of life care.

Bereavement support is offered to families, often for two to three years after their child’s death.

There is no cost to any of the families but the hospice costs nearly £9 million a year to run - the majority of which comes from voluntary donations and fundraising.

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