Liz Boardman will be 75 years old when she takes on Mam Tor in the Peak District this summer.
What makes the challenge even more remarkable is that the former Lollipop Lady, who originally hails from New Cumnock in Scotland, will be hill-walking for the first time in 40 years.
So why attempt the 1,696ft ascent on a hill nicknamed the ‘Shivering Mountain’ due to its frequent landslips? The motivation for the challenge lies in the life-saving care received by Liz’s grandson, Kai Dwayne, at Sheffield Children's Hospital.
Kai was diagnosed with Chiari malformation when he four years old. The condition, where the brain and the spinal cord are displaced, can cause a wide variety of symptoms from dizziness and balance problems to muscle weakness and hearing loss.
The surgeons at Sheffield Children’s Hospital waited as long as possible for Kai’s brain and body to develop until they had to operate. The procedure, which removed his first vertebrae and repositioned his brain, was performed in 2014 when the youngster had turned seven. It was successful but unfortunately Kai contracted medical meningitis shortly afterwards and he remained in hospital for seven weeks.
His mum, Michele, aged 49, recalls: “It was a very scary time, but the staff were excellent. Kai still has some problems now, but if it hadn’t have been for Sheffield Children’s Hospital and their hard work and care, we all dread to think what the outcome would have been.”
“Liz was so supportive during Kai’s time in the hospital, travelling there every day from her home in Doncaster, bringing everything we needed. I know the care we received left a lasting impression on her. As soon as we came home, she was saying she wanted to do something for the hospital.”
It was earlier this year, as Liz’s son Stuart was discussing his ambition to climb Mount Everest, that the 74-year-old briskly stated: ‘I’m going to climb a mountain for Sheffield Children’s Hospital.”
Castleton’s Mam Tor has provided the family with a happy compromise.
Liz says: “The last time I went hill-walking was 40 years ago! I’m excited but also apprehensive, as I know some of the walk will be quite steep, which worries me a little, but my son will be there to guide me. I like to stay active and I think this will be a great challenge for me.
“I was probably in my late thirties the last time I went hill-walking. I do enjoy lowlands walking though and have kept this up. I go to a local gym nearly every morning and I go walking with my children, grandchildren and great grandchildren locally, especially for walks along the local river.
“My son goes hill walking regularly in the Peak District and it was him that mentioned Mam Tor to me. I haven’t walked it, but I’ve seen lots of photos and I know what to expect. I thought it would be fun to do and I decided to try and raise some funds for The Children’s Hospital Charity in the process. I like to try and stay active and thought this would be a great challenge and give me a goal to work towards.
“My grandson Kai spent seven weeks in Sheffield Children’s Hospital and the staff were brilliant with him and our family. They were friendly and helpful even when we know they’d been working very hard. I also know several other children who’ve benefitted from care at Sheffield Children’s Hospital, so it’s something that was an easy decision for me to try and raise funds.”
Michele says: “Kai and I are so proud of her. Once she sets her mind to something, we know she’ll do it. She was a constant source of support for us throughout his time at Sheffield Children’s Hospital. She would travel in every day to help.”
The grateful grandmother has since made every effort to raise money for her big challenge, carrying her sponsorship form wherever she goes. So far, she has raised over £1,500, more than triple her original target.
Michele adds: “She knows everyone and certainly isn’t shy about asking. The walk may tire her out and we may not see her for days, but you can guarantee she’ll have that form when we do.”
Freya Kingswood, community fundraising assistant at The Children’s Hospital Charity, added: “It’s really inspiring to see Liz commit to such a tough challenge to help our hospital and say thank you for the care Kai has received.
“We’ll be behind her every step of the way and her fundraising will make a difference to hundreds of young patients every week from across the UK and beyond, who depend on our hospital’s excellent care.”
Visit justgiving.com/fundraising/elizabeth-boardman to donate.