The daring duo braved the 5,895m ascent in memory of Marie’s late mother, and Charlie’s grandmother, Lorraine, who died from the autoimmune disease, Lupus, in 1991. The timing of the trek was particularly fitting, as this year would have been Lorraine’s 60th birthday.
Marie said: “It still hasn’t quite sunk in that we actually got to the top of Mount Kilimanjaro, but we did! It was the hardest thing I’ve ever done, but amazing at the same time and to be able to have shared it with Charlie is definitely something we will never forget. We are both extremely grateful for the support we have received. Our justgiving page is still open!”
Marie and Charlie’s trek took place over seven days in August. Part of a group of 15 fundraisers from various charities, Marie and Charlie – who was the youngest of the group – received support on the climb from organisation Charity Challenge.
Their gruelling ascent on summit day, 13th August, began at midnight. The mother and son battled a steep climb, slippery rocks and plummeting temperatures, which saw their drinking water turn to ice just two hours in.
Marie said: “The impact of the altitude was horrendous. We suffered headaches, sickness, cold sores that didn’t heal and then legs and arms that swelled. Everything was an effort – from getting dressed to walking. We could really feel our hearts beating so quickly: working hard to deliver the oxygen that was available.”
Undeterred by the challenge, Marie and Charlie reached the top seven and a half hours later.
Marie said: “I was relieved to have actually got there. We quickly began walking down after taking our summit photographs as I felt dreadful!”
In addition to the climb, Marie and Charlie’s fundraising efforts have included taking part in the Birmingham Half Marathon and an 11,000ft skydive. The headteacher’s nine-year-old son, Freddie, who attends Sutton’s Hill West Primary School, even shaved his head to boost their total.
Marie said: “Mum left a huge hole in my life and I work hard to keep her memory alive, with this in mind I have embarked on a fundraising campaign to mark this milestone in her life.”
Marie began training to improve her fitness last year in preparation for the Birmingham Half Marathon and continues to keep her stamina levels up by going to the gym, running, swimming, playing netball and regular walking to wear in her walking boots.
The trek was among a number of initiatives fearless fundraisers Marie and Charlie have completed to raise money for the worthy cause. In addition to the half marathon, skydive and head shaving, activities have included a bingo & band night, Christmas card sales, raffles, auctions.
Marie’s mother, Lorraine, died following being diagnosed with SLE (Systemic Lupus Erythematosus) which is an autoimmune disease affecting any part of the body as the immune system attacks the body’s own cells and tissues. She was a local lady who attended the Bishop Walsh School in Sutton Coldfield.
Marie said: “For my mum, her Lupus affected her skin, joints, kidneys, lungs and her brain. She was only finally diagnosed the week she actually died and her symptoms had progressed too far to treat.
“There is no cure for Lupus, however there are treatments which help to control the symptoms. Lupus continues to affect my family as my cousin on my mum’s side of the family was diagnosed in June 2002. My mum’s symptoms meant that a Lupus test was insisted upon for my cousin and hers was diagnosed early. Although her Lupus is under control at the moment, she often has flare ups which leave her very poorly.
“There was an emotional moment when we got to the exit of the park and we knew it was over. The trek was an immense personal challenge, but one I know my mum would be exceptionally proud of us doing.”