Britain v Cancer: Jordan Desert Trek

03 June 2013
Kirsty completed the Britain V Cancer trek sahara challenge

Kirsty Birr took on the biggest challenge of her life - Britain Vs Cancer Jordan Desert Trek - and succeeded! This is her story:

“In December 2011 I visited the Children with Cancer UK website looking for some information.  What I saw lead me to the biggest challenge of my life: Britain Vs Cancer – Jordan Desert Trek. 

Did I have it in me to raise the £2,500 needed to go?

I spoke to some friends and customers at the local pub where I work to see what their thoughts were on it. I couldn’t have got a more positive response: Of COURSE you can do it Kirst’!   

So that was that. By January 2012 I was booked to go to Jordan, to cross the desert and raise funds for Children with Cancer UK.
 
I have supported Children with Cancer UK for ten years now – mainly selling raffle tickets or helping out at their Children’s Party in Battersea Park. But this would undoubtedly be the biggest thing I had done to date.

And so the challenge started.  Raise the funds and get fit!   
I have worked in marketing and am lucky to be fairly imaginative – and not shy to ask for money! I set about promoting myself and the trek.

Then the hard work REALLY started – planning events that would engage the public so that they felt they were getting something out of it too.The Children with Cancer UK Events team were very good at sending me t-shirts, collection tins, stickers, balloons etc. 

My website and Facebook page for the trek were created to try and spread the message. Posters were put up at my local pub (where I also work) and a collection tin was put at the bar.

This has raised £400 so far!  

Then the hard work REALLY started – planning events that would engage the public so that they felt they were getting something out of it too.   I was incredibly lucky to have friends support me by building a website, designing posters, helping out at events, printing material for events, all for free.  

My fundraising events
Kirsty BirrMy first event was at a local gym. A treadmill was placed at reception and people would take it in turns to run for charity. The target and theme was ‘100k in a day’.  Lots of people participated and the event raised nearly £200. A healthy start to the fund!

My second event was ‘winter safety checks on vehicles’, with all proceeds going to Children with Cancer UK.  Sadly this event got little response. But we made the most of it by selling balloons and spreading the word on what I was doing and why.  

Next we held a charity Jazz evening at a rather lovely hotel on the south coast. Mr Antony Adams, winner of the BBC’s ‘Stars in their Eyes’, very kindly agreed to perform for free for me -  the fund received a substantial amount from the ticket sales. Everyone had a lovely night with great food and wonderful entertainment and we raised over £400 for Children with Cancer UK.

My final event was a ‘charity car wash.’ It may seem a mad event to hold  in the bleak temperatures we had in January, but it was a great success and we even had ambulances from the local hospital!  

Exceeded my target!
But I am not one to quit easily and with perseverance I hit AND EXCEEDED my target, raising a total of just over £3,100!There were times when I doubted whether I would raise enough money and, I won’t lie,  there were occasions where I found it fairly stressful. Time and effort was needed for the planning of events as well as the events themselves.
 
But I am not one to quit easily and with perseverance I hit AND EXCEEDED my target, raising a total of just over £3,100!   

On the way to Jordan I spoke with other trekkers, some of whom said they felt uncomfortable asking people for money.  ‘Why?’ I would ask, ‘ It’s not for you, it’s for the charity’.  Then to prove a point, I managed to get the airport security guard at the x-ray machine to empty his pockets of spare change and donate to the cause!    

The trek itself
The trek itself was by far the hardest thing I have ever done. 

We had no running water for five days. We walked up incredibly steep mountains and down long, precarious ravines for hours on end in temperatures of up to 40 degrees.  

It was arduous, but every day brought new energy and determination. Chatting to other trekkers, it became apparent that many of them were there because they had lost people really close to them to cancer, or they themselves were in remission. We all learned to help each other and the camaraderie was amazing.

On Day One I had said: ‘this will be the only time I do anything like this’ and now I was saying: ‘I can’t wait to do something else!’You get quickly used to not having much and I wasn’t really looking forward to getting back to ‘normal’ life. I cried my eyes out at the airport on the way home!  

On Day One I had said: ‘this will be the only time I do anything like this’ and now I was saying: ‘I can’t wait to do something else!’.

It was an amazing experience. I pushed myself through boundaries that I wasn’t even aware I had and made some excellent friends.  

Four of us trekked for Children with Cancer UK and have so far raised over £8,000. Between the 99 trekkers who attended, we so far have raised over £250,000 – all for cancer charities. Something to be proud of I’d say!

So I’d like to say a BIG THANK YOU to all of those who supported me:  Yvonne at Children with Cancer UK for sending me materials and for believing in me; friends for helping with design, printing and promotion; and to everyone who came and took part in the event (including my fellow trekkers!).

None of this would have been achievable without your help support. You have truly helped me to help make a difference.

Now, bring on the Himalayas!!  ;-)

[Kirsty Birr, May 2013]

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