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Carlisle’s fundraisers set to scale Transylvania in aid of children’s charity

Sandra and Mark Jones take on a tasking trail through the Peak District. Credit Sasha Ray Photography.

Two adventurous fundraisers from Cumbria will be taking on the heights of Dracula country in aid of children’s charity the NSPCC.

Sandra and Mark Jones, from Carlisle, have been training for months in preparation to scale mountains up to a height of 2,400 meters above sea level through areas that are home to wolves, lynx and bears.

They’ll be joined by a large team from across the North of England, which will include four time Superbike world champion and former King of the Jungle Carl Fogarty and NSPCC Carlisle Service Centre’s Amy McQueen.

Sandra, who is also a community fundraising manager for NSPCC, said: “My husband Mark and I did the Great Wall of China walk for NSPCC last year and it was truly breath taking – it really takes you out of your comfort zone, but the sense of achievement when you finish is amazing.

“It’s not just the physical challenge, but knowing that we’ve raised so much money for a cause we’re deeply passionate about – we were on a high for weeks after we got back.”

But even though Sandra and her husband now have a fair bit of experience in trekking, they’re certainly not easing off from training.

Sandra said: “We did a practice walk in the Peak District a few weeks ago – I actually was very comfortable with that practice, even though it was hard work. For example, one minute you’d be walking in boggy sections, then you’d have to pass over little rivers which is still a fear for me, then in the last hour was a section which the trek leader said was specifically for those of us doing the Transylvania trek.

“I just looked at the top, and I couldn’t see the bottom, and it was effectively rock climbing on the descent and I hadn’t anticipated that. I was ok though, I didn’t have a panic attack because Liam, Amy’s husband, was behind me and Mark was in front, so I knew I was safe with my team.

“Afterwards my husband said he was so proud of me because I would never have been able to do it before, and it just shows how much you develop doing a challenge like this. You push yourself and build your confidence tremendously.”

Amy and Liam McQueen focus on their footing. Credit Sasha Ray Photography

And with a full day of trekking in the Peak District not quite enough, Sandra and Mark joined Amy and Liam to do Cumbria’s three peaks.  But the physical challenge isn’t the only thing Sandra and her trek mates have to embrace, but the fundraising challenge too.

She said: “It’s not easy, and you have to raise a fair bit of money for these treks, so you have to be really committed. But there are ways to do it – people do sponsored events, bake sales, car boot sales, name the bear – there are lots of ways to help you get to your goal, it just takes time and planning.

“It’s a huge undertaking, but it’s worth it to get that sense of achievement at the end of it.”

And for Sandra there’s a very special reason why she’s taking on such big challenges.

She explains: “In 2011 I was made redundant from a job I loved, and got diagnosed with grade three breast cancer at the same time, so I lost so much of my life in one go. But I overcame that, went through the treatments and started my own cancer charity.

“I would ask people to do abseils and sky dives and all sorts, but knew I couldn’t ask people to do these things without doing them too, at front and centre of their efforts to lead by example. I’ve evolved from there really, and with the NSPCC we ask people to get involved in so many ways that I need to show our supporters I’m willing to do the difficult and challenging things too.

“It definitely helps when you see the amazing work being done by the NSPCC. Here in Cumbria the service centre helped more than 140 children last year alone to recover after some really traumatic experiences.

“When I think about what those children have gone through, climbing 2,400m to make sure we can keep supporting them doesn’t seem a big thing to do at all.”

Sandra, Mark, Amy and her husband Liam will be taking on Ben Nevis, the UK’s tallest mountain, next weekend (June 15/16) in preparation for the Transylvania Trek. If you would like to support Sandra and Mark with their fundraising for NSPCC, you can donate at https://www.justgiving.com/fundraising/sandra-jones24

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