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Gloucestershire Business News

Woman with MND completed six mile hike for hospice charity

Courageous Gloucestershire woman, Bel Cornwell, has smashed her £10k in a year fundraising target for the Sue Ryder hospice which is supporting her, by completing a mammoth six mile hill hike in an especially adapted 'Tramper'.

Bel, from Winchcombe in Gloucestershire, was diagnosed with debilitating Motor Neurone Disease nearly seven years ago and has since lost the ability to walk and talk. Since the summer of 2020 she has been supported by Sue Ryder Leckhampton Court Hospice in Cheltenham, and has been so inspired by the care that she and her family have received that she set out to raise £10k by completing a series of charity challenges over a year.

The fundraising started in the summer of 2020, when Bel completed a 'marathon' of 11 walks of 4km, raising £7,000 for Sue Ryder Leckhampton Court Hospice.

As well as raising vital funds for the charity, the challenge brought Bel and her family - son Joby and daughter Letty - so many health and wellbeing benefits they decided to take on a second fundraiser, clocking up a further 100 miles between November 2020 and May 2021 helping them raise a further £1,000.

The fundraising baton passed to son, Joby, who was joined by two friends to complete the Three Peaks Challenge within 23 hours in June, raising a further £1,300.

And in her tallest challenge yet, Bel hiked six miles over Bredon Hill on Saturday 7th August with the help of an especially adapted 'Tramper' supplied by the Disabled Rambling Association, raising a further £1,000 and rising.

This takes her incredible fundraising total for Sue Ryder Leckhampton Court Hospice to an astonishing £10,389 in just one year.

"For my final fundraising challenge I wanted to do something a bit more challenging and after being inspired by Joby's Three Peaks Challenge I wanted to take on a 'peak' of my own," shared Bel. "With the help of the Disabled Ramblers Association and one of their Trampers I was able to complete a circular six mile climb of Bredon Hill, starting in Kemerton.

"This fundraising challenge has been one of the most complex to organise as I needed to arrange some powered all-terrain transport that could cope with the bumpy fields and tracks. I was eventually put in touch with Disabled Ramblers, and their Chairman, John Cuthbertson, helped me with test driving a suitable vehicle and choosing the best route. Without his help my final challenge would not have been possible."

After reaching the summit, Bel said: "Setting off to trek up Bredon Hill I was full of anticipation, knowing we would cover many different landscapes. I was worried about whether I would manage to get my Tramper to do what I needed it to do!

"But on reaching the summit, any worries I might have had were soon quashed as the Tramper battled through much uneven terrain and pot holes with complete ease.

"Reaching the top was a special moment for a number of reasons as it not only marked the end of a year's fundraising for Sue Ryder, reaching well over £10,000, but it was also the end of the many shared journeys with my walking companions. I felt a mixture of emotions - happiness at what we have achieved, and some sadness came to the fore too - but our quest to continue to 'fly the flag' for Sue Ryder remains as strong as ever!"

Bel's son Joby and daughter Letty proudly walked alongside their mum during the hike. Joby said: "Our Bredon Hill walk was simply the best as we were also joined by other ramblers, which gave the walk a real community feel. Out of all the year's challenges for Sue Ryder, the person who has made the biggest impression on me is my mum. Despite having to battle with the increasing difficulties that MND has on her, she just carries on fighting this awful illness. I am super proud of her."

Letty added: "The hike was a wonderful day, bringing so many like-minded people together. The community spirit and togetherness of the group provided such a wonderful atmosphere. We got to know other disabled ramblers, shared stories and celebrated the achievements of an incredible year of challenges. It was an amazing experience and to see mum finish at the end was an emotional moment for us all."

Before she was diagnosed with MND, Bel, who worked as a teaching assistant and in recent years as the Co-ordinator for Partnerships, Community Action and Charities at Cheltenham College, was fit and active.

Bel added: "Living with MND has stripped me of so many things, like no longer being able to work, and these challenges have given me a definite sense of purpose. The fundraising challenges we have completed over the past year have had a significant positive influence on my mental and physical well-being."

Bel wanted to complete the challenges to support Sue Ryder Leckhampton Court Hospice. The hospice has been providing care to her and her family including an inpatient stay in 2020, and through support from its specialist occupational health team visiting her home to help get all the right equipment in place, alongside regular phone contact with the hospice's healthcare team.

Bel explains: "As a family we continue to benefit from the support of Sue Ryder, which is why we are committed to doing whatever we can to help them continue with their life-enhancing work.

"Having Sue Ryder in our lives really does make a difference. They have given me and my family true peace of mind, helping us to manage the different stages of motor neurone disease, with a focus on maximising the best quality of life as possible."

Son Joby added: "I am so proud of everything we have achieved and the funds we have raised together to help support the outstanding work that Sue Ryder does. The help they have given mum especially has taken much of the worry away from our family. We know that they will always be here supporting us all the way through.

"The effect this illness has had has been heart-breaking and testing for us all, in particular for our mum who faces challenges every day. Mum has inspired me all the way throughout my life - and always will do and I know she will have inspired many more people with her amazing fundraising challenges over the past year!"

Bel said: "I can honestly say that these challenges have been such an incredible time, and an unforgettable experience. One that has been full of laughter, hilarity and happiness - and one that simply goes down as a truly special moment in time. My challenges may have all seemed a mad hatter moment at the beginning, but then with all the support and love of everyone - it is turning my dreams into reality."

There is still a chance to support Bel's fundraising by donating at https://www.justgiving.com/fundraising/cornwellfamily-sueryder.

And the fantastic fundraising family don't plan on stopping there! Bel added: "The Cornwell family's shared aim over the past year has been to support and raise awareness of the outstanding care and impact that Sue Ryder has on the local community of Cheltenham and beyond. They have been our 'tower of strength' in helping Letty, Joby and me deal with the realities that living with motor neurone disease presents.

"Any one of us might need to call on the support they offer in our lifetime - whether in terms of a terminal illness, or palliative care, or losing someone - they are quite simply there when we need them. As we reach the end of one year of fundraising, this only marks the beginning of our continued support of this exceptional charity."

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