Swimming, cycling, running (and paddleboarding) our way to France – one family’s inspiring story of charity
In 2022, Emily and her two sisters, Stephanie and Cheryl, completed an amazing charity challenge – swimming, cycling and running their way from Devon to Southern France! This was no easy feat; they covered 750Km – each! The charity that they chose to support was FAIR, in memory of their parents, Cyndy and Grant, who had passed away from autoimmune disease complications. In this blog post, Emily tells us more about the inspiration behind their challenge and how they are inspiring the next generation.
About the challenge
This charity challenge was set by me and my sisters – you each needed to swim or walk 750 kilometres each over a couple of months to raise £500 for charity. One sister paddle boarded and tried to convince us that was part of the challenge! All us sisters live in different places with one in Cambridge, one in France, and I’m in Devon. Despite the distance, we are quite close!
Donate to FAIR through Emily’s Just Giving Page
Raising money for a reason
We chose to do the challenge for a charity called FAIR, Funding Auto Immune Research (https://www.fair-uk.co.uk/). The reason that we chose that charity was because we lost my mum, Cyndy, last year in November. And nine years earlier, my dad, Grant, passed away. Both our parents died with complications from autoimmune diseases.
“Autoimmune disease is something that people don’t really know that much about, but it impacts a lot of people! We’ve worked to raise £500 pounds, and HRA Global matched what we raised.”
Our mother inspired us
My mother had cancer, and as a complication, paraneoplastic syndrome. This syndrome is exceptionally rare and is an autoimmune response within the body. When her body attacked the cancer, it attacked her nervous system as well. Within a year of any symptoms, she was gone. The doctors didn’t realise it was cancer, because they were trying to treat the nervous system symptoms, for example, her hands were affected by mobility issues.
Autoimmune disease affected my family
When my father passed away 9 years ago, he had suffered for a long time with palindromic rheumatism – it’s an autoimmune response that attacks certain joints. The disease would travel between his joints and was quite painful for him. Autoimmune disease is something that both our parents were affected by, and that’s why we chose to do it for FAIR.
The charity challenge wasn’t easy!
For us three sisters that weren’t particularly active (meaning we weren’t gym bunnies) it was a big challenge for us! We fit the challenge into our day-to-day activities, with jobs, children and everything else that we had going on. There were definitely points where we felt like giving up – but we would not entertain that thought because we had set ourselves the challenge and were doing it for a great cause.
“It was really important to us that we were doing it in memory of our Mum.”
Tracking our progress
We tracked our progress through Strava, and we could see which one of us was leading the journey. I’m the youngest and the most competitive! We were encouraging each other and saying “Come on, you’ve gotta get another 10k or we’re going to be off track.” It was three sisters together trying to achieve a common goal.
My Mum lived in France and Devon; she spent most of her life in Devon but moved to France nearly 20 years ago. The distance is 750 kilometres (give or take according to Google Maps!). All three sisters committed to going that distance — so it was quite a bit of energy put into it!
“It’s a challenge to cycle that far and I was pushing to kind of do it as quickly as I could. Sometimes I was cycling 30km to 50km per day and it’s quite hard, even on a spin bike. It was a commitment for somebody that hasn’t been cycling like that every day.”
FAIR is a small charity
We chose the FAIR charity because they don’t have a lot of funding – some of the most worthwhile charities don’t have huge advertising campaigns raising money for them. So even though £1000 pounds is just a drop in the ocean toward fighting these autoimmune diseases, the money will hopefully go a bit further than it would in a larger charity. Every penny raised goes to autoimmune disease research, and the people that run this charity are also directly affected by autoimmune diseases in their own lives.
Why is it important to donate to FAIR?
Anybody could be affected by an autoimmune disease, and it’s an issue that is underfunded and under-researched. It’s important to donate to FAIR, so they can continue their research and spread awareness of these conditions, as well as provide support for those living with these diseases.
What’s the next stage of this journey for you?
As a family, we chose this charity, partly because it was a big wake up call. My sisters and I realised that we need to be fit, healthy and proactive to protect ourselves from autoimmune diseases. These diseases can affect anyone, even children, and can be really nasty. It’s made us all think a bit more about how healthy we are and how healthy we should be — and how fitness is definitely something that we need to do! It’s inspired our fitness journey and as a family we are slimmer, fitter and stronger as a result of this challenge.
“I think looking around at our own families and saying, “Hang on, let’s look at our parent’s genetics and do something a bit more proactive; something that can benefit this charity as well.”
The contribution that HRA Global made to the challenge was so important – our managing director, Hamish, not only matched all the donations pound-for-pound, he loaned me his spin bike so I could complete the challenge. I eventually bought a spin bike for myself because I enjoyed the challenge so much, and I know it’s important to keep up my fitness.
Leaving a legacy
I’ve got three small children, up to the age of 10, and they were all watching me complete the challenge. I remember telling them “Mummy’s got to do her 20k today so I can be ahead for the weekend.” It was nice and they were all really keen to see the challenge in progress.
“They keep measuring their height, asking if they are tall enough to go on the spin bike. It’s a great thing for kids to be involved in. My daughter wants to do 100k on her bike in a month — probably next summer.”
To learn more about FAIR and donate to the charity, visit the JustGiving page