This January, Rise to the Challenge focuses on giving amazing local people the opportunity to do something amazing while raising vital funds for Willen Hospice. Amazing people just like John and Wendy.Keen hikers, John and Wendy always had the unusual retirement plan to take on an epic walk from Land’s End to John O’Groats. But whilst selling his business in 2020, John was diagnosed with Stage 3 – 4 Bowel Cancer.
John went through 5-weeks of intense chemo, radiotherapy, and a radical 15-hour life-changing bowel surgery. Now John has recovered, the couple are more determined than ever to take on the biggest walk of their lives, and they even think John may be the only person with two stomas to do it.
To spur the couple on, they have decided to use their challenge to try and raise £10,000 for both St. Marks The National Bowel Hospital, where John underwent his surgery, and Willen Hospice, a charity the couple has supported for years through their business.
John and Wendy visited the Hospice to tell us more about John’s journey and their plans for the 1000 mile walk.
“John spent a month in Intensive Care and a week intubated to help him breathe” explains Wendy, John’s wife. “He arrived home in an ambulance and couldn’t come downstairs for a week. It was a long, gruelling rehabilitation.”
John continues, “We had always wanted to walk from Lands’ End to John O’Groats after we retired, but during my treatment, we were not sure if this could now happen. We never gave up hope though, and here we are. I think I may be the only person with two stomas to do it, so we’ve contacted the Guinness Book of Records. We’ll wait and see.”
The couple aim to start their challenge on 1 April 2024 and estimate that it could take up to three months to complete.
“The plan was to use bed & breakfasts, but proved too expensive”, explains John. “So, we’re hiring a camper van and going to be spending each day walking and then getting lifts to or from the camper van. How are we going to do that? Social media as well as contacts through our family and friends”.
Even before the couple have taken their first steps, they have already been touched by the kindness of strangers. Wendy describes the support they have received just by wearing their Willen Hospice T-shirts. “It’s very, very humbling. We walked around the Isle of Wight on the coastal path and we stopped to have a coffee in one of these pop-up cafes. This lovely lady spotted the Willen Hospice T-shirts and offered to pay for our coffee and cake, which we then donated the cost back to our fundraising page. And when we were walking the Grand Union Canal doing the last section of London to Birmingham, we met various people who saw our T-shirts and then went on to sponsor us. I think we’re learning to accept that it’s not for us, it’s for the charities. So, when people do offer to donate, we say yes thank you!”
So far John and Wendy has raised an incredible £2,405 of their £10,000 sponsorship target for Willen Hospice and St Marks Bowel Hospital.
They are grateful to the wonderful Milton Keynes based Parklife Campers who have given them a special price for their campervan hire and lots of fundraising support ideas. In addition, they are looking for businesses to sponsor their campervan to help with this expense. These companies will be advertised on the sides and back of the van as a thank you. The couple are funding all other expenses for the challenge themselves.