Team Rachel – Fun, Friendship, Fundraising and Finding ways to raise the profile!

A wonderful account of the Thames Bridge Trek by Beverly Jones.

Our Summer of 2016 will be remembered not just for the Olympic and Paralympic success in Rio, but for the benefits we gained as “ Team Rachel” from our participation in the Thames Bridges Trek on Saturday 10th September 2016. Team Rachel was the team formed to remember Rachel Wardleworth who would have celebrated her 10th wedding anniversary and 37th Birthday during the same week if she had lived. Dawn Rahman, Rachel’s mother suggested participation in the walk at this time of year was the perfect way to remember Rachel. It gave us the opportunity to demonstrate to Rachel’s sons Joe, aged 15 and Liam, aged 9 plus our own 9  adult children that you can be an athlete at all ages and rise to the challenge.

The team were recruited in June. Dawn’s friend and neighbour Rosemary had known Rachel from childhood and made her wedding cake in 2006. I have been friends with Dawn for 20 years and was on a spa day with Dawn in November 2010, the day before Rachel died. Whilst we were pampered and relaxed Dawn described in detail her concerns about Rachel’s health with 2 young sons and how every day she was relieved to think she was alive. The final team member was Lizzie, my friend who has a godson born with cerebral palsy who also has epilepsy. Lizzie and I were introduced by my lodger Tom in the 1980s. Tom died in his early 30s. We all had a story to tell and recognised the need to raise the profile of the charity.

Throughout the summer long walks were planned. 5 miles became a stroll. 7 miles a regular date and 10 or 12 miles to prove the distance was achievable. We benefitted from beautiful weather and came to appreciate the beautiful scenery where we live. Every week the total on our on line giving sites increased and by mid-August we were elated as all of us had exceeded our fundraising targets.

Final messages on social media and by e-mail prompted a final flurry of donations followed by more once we had completed the walk. We were all emotional to think we had secured £4,000 but actually we were more emotional to hear so many of our sponsors relay their experience of epilepsy and Sudden Unexpected Death in Epilepsy. As we meet our sponsors face to face we have further opportunities to affirm our shared commitment to research and the charity.

This all sounds so positive, but Dawn was far from positive the week before the walk as the weather forecast showed that the sole day for rain was to be the day of the walk. What to wear? Lizzie had 4 x “ Maid of the mist” lightweight ponchos from a trip to Niagra Falls in 2001. Dawn wasn’t sure her Ikea poncho was up to it. She did not want wet feet. We all packed 4 pairs of socks and were advised shorts were best if you are wet. Not for the faint hearted 50 something. Let alone the 60 year old in our party!

We needn’t have worried. The lightweight Epilepsy Research T shirts sent a few weeks ago were resistant to showers and all of the rain wear worked! Wet fringes and frizz are on trend we believe! We arrived earlier than our time slot to start from Putney and treated ourselves to Bacon butties. We did the work out with the Motivator fitness instructor and managed to get a shout out for “Team Rachel” and Epilepsy Research. So Shona from the charity tracked us down and walked with us. Her multiple flags blowing in the breeze.

The walk itself is an adventure. You see parts of London not on the tourist trail and then mingle with large crowds along the South Bank, Tower of London and Dockland streets. We were never short of conversation stimulated by the sights, sounds and smells of the city as well as our fellow walkers. The pit stop half way was brilliant with free refreshments and fabulous loos. Long awaited, so much admired. We were buoyed by messages from friends on the day and delighted to be met by our children and Dawn’s niece who will run for Epilepsy Research in the London Marathon next year.

We were so excited to be given our medals and to know that the efforts of the summer had proved so successful in terms of our fitness and our fundraising. The folk on the tube who engaged in conversation about our medals and charity made us feel like celebrities, but the highlight of the day was the Manager of the Lighterman restaurant at Kings Cross who sent over Prosecco to the 4 x damp ladies who were clearly so excited about their day.

Actually, I shouldn’t say that was the highlight because when we arrived back in Cambridge David, Dawn’s husband arranged balloons, an epilepsy research banner and champagne to greet us. At 11.00 p.m. at night. The whole experience was full of surprises.

15 folk walked this year for Epilepsy Research. The 4 of us can’t ask for sponsorship again, so I hope there is another team interested for next September. We did raise the money and we did remember Rachel, but actually it was a broader celebration of friendship and the fantastic generosity of family and friends. Above all, it has made us talk Epilepsy throughout the summer of 2016. Thank you to Dawn our fabulous friend and to Epilepsy Research for the opportunity. We are now planning our next “Team Rachel” walk in the Cotswolds.

 

Beverly Jones

14th September 2016

 

Team Rachel:

Lead: Dawn Rahman + Rosemary Parker, Beverly Jones, Lizzie Wieser