On August 12, more than 80 fundraisers and beneficiaries took part in the Yorkshire Three Peaks Challenge. A gruelling 26-mile trek that involved climbing the three highest mountains in the County. On a day when the local weather proved to be unpredictable, the competitors battled through torrential rain, winds, and poor visibility to complete the famous course.
Before the event, several of the fundraisers were interviewed, with some understandably nervous about what lay ahead. 37-year-old Vikki Smith stepped out of her comfort zone to take part in the event. She had travelled from Rochdale the night before, and was entering the trek on her own. In the minutes before the start, she said: “I have never done anything like this before, not like this.”
But despite her fears, Vikki was determined to give something back to Help for Heroes, as a family member had once received assistance from the Charity. “This is the first time I have fundraised for Help for Heroes. The associated fundraising groups have been very supportive, so it felt like it was the natural thing to do. Without the Charity, he would not be here now.”
James Greenwell served in the Army for 11 years, and the Territorial Army for more than 30. He was taking part in the Three Peaks for the third year in succession. Now aged 67, James is a passionate supporter of Help for Heroes, and paid the entrance fee to take part - a method that is available for those who might not have the time to fundraise. James said: “I like hill walking and wanted to support Help for Heroes, and I like to prove I can still do it, even at the age of 67. It is a very well managed event and well supported, and I love doing it.”
As with all challenges, there were many different characters, and abilities, taking part; the Yorkshire Three Peaks is open to all who want to experience something which may be different to the norm. This was the case with Paul Eaton from Birmingham. Paul is a strong supporter of the Charity, but has no affiliation to the military, other than that of his grandad who once served in the Army. But it is a cause he strongly sympathises with, and he wanted to combine fundraising with a whole new experience. He said: “This the first time I have been to this area, it is my first event, but I am sure I will be ok. I have climbed Snowdon in the past, but I want to do this and it will be a nice change. It is amazing to raise money for a great charity.”
Help for Heroes regularly holds events like the Yorkshire Three Peaks, and what draws many people to them is the sense of camaraderie between the competitors.
Complete strangers before the event, many were talking throughout the walk, and embracing as good friends at the finish line when it dawned on them how notable and memorable an achievement it was to finish.
John Lewis, who is a Help for Heroes beneficiary, thought he would never be able to walk again when he was injured in 2004. But after physiotherapy, ten operations, and battling Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), he embarked on a challenge that at one stage seemed a distant reality.
On crossing the finish line, the veteran struggled hide his relief and appreciation at what he had achieved, and praised Help for Heroes. He later sent a heartfelt message, with a hint of returning to tackle further events. “I cannot say thank you enough. I'll try anyway, so thank you for putting on events like this weekend's trek challenge and I can't wait to take on the next one.”
Challenges like the Yorkshire Three Peaks are tough, both mentally and physically. But the sense of achievement, and the brotherhood that comes with taking part in a cause that they feel passionate about, often has a hugely positive effect on participants, and shows that it really is a case of mind over mountain.