There’s no mountain high enough in a Lanarkshire woman’s quest to raise money for the charity that gave her friend a reason to live after he suddenly lost his sight.
Ever since Stacey McCallum was introduced to Scott Cunningham in the workplace some seven years ago, she’s been full of admiration for the man who was just 23 when his optic nerves shut off, completely depriving him of of his vision.
Stacey and Scott have remained good friends ever since, and she describes him as “one of the most inspiring people” she has ever known.
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After the sudden death of Stacey’s father in 2017 at the age of 57, followed just 13 months later by the death of her 54-year-old mother, who had battled MS, she set out to conquer Mt. Kilimanjaro in memory of his parents.
Although the pandemic put an end to her plans in 2020, a brave Stacey is now back in training. And this time she’s once again on a mission to tackle the world’s tallest mountain above sea level, while raising £5,000 for Guide Dogs – the charity that restored the friend Scott’s confidence, independence and hope at a time when he thought life wasn’t worth living.
Stacey, 30, has invested £3,500 of her own money in the self-funded trip and is leaving the UK for Africa on August 11, booked through outdoor activity organisers, The Bucket List.
She and other trekkers will set off for the Marangu route trek on August 14 and plan to return to base by August 19.
“Mount Kilimanjaro stands proudly 5,895 meters above sea level, 19,341 feet above sea level, and I’ve been obsessed with it for years due to my love for the movie The Lion King. So , I thought, why not give it a try?” said Stacey.
Despite working a 50 hour week as a compliance officer at a security company and as a leisure assistant at South Lanarkshire Leisure, Stacey manages to fit a grueling training schedule into her routine which includes two cardio sessions and two strength training sessions per week under the watchful eye of her personal trainer, Heather Whitelaw.
As well as following a strict nutrition plan, she hiked Ben Ledi and regularly hiked Tinto Hill near Climpy – the hamlet near Forth where she lives.
As well as pledging donations via Stacey’s JustGiving page, she’s also secured support from her employer, Anubis Security, who will pay for her vaccinations, and family businesses in South Lanarkshire, The Wee Farm Distillery and McKerr Fencing, who sponsor his kit, including a sleeping bag, boots, poles, backpacks and clothing suitable for the conditions and altitude.
This isn’t the first time Stacey has ventured to go the extra mile for charity by raising money through sporting achievements.
Over the past six years she has raised an astonishing £15,000 for Cash for Kids, The Haven and the MS Society via Tough Mudders, a parachute jump, walking the West Highland Way, climbing Ben Nevis, completing the Great Scottish Swim, plus half marathons, 10k and a variety of obstacle courses.
“I’ve raised thousands of dollars for charities very close to me and this time I want to donate to guide dogs,” she explained.
“It is mainly thanks to the legend and my incredible friend, Scott Cunningham MBE. I had the privilege of meeting Scott and working with him for several years. He is one of the most inspiring people I have ever known. I’ve ever met. He skis, runs marathons and climbs mountains. There’s nothing this man can’t do.
“He’s a great guy, and he’s amazing considering what he’s been through in life. After losing his sight completely at the age of 23, he was introduced to his first guide dog — and he’s now number four. He’s inspiring and does things that any sighted person would say they can’t do.
Almost two million people in the UK are living with vision loss which has had a significant impact on their daily lives.
Of these, about 180,000 rarely leave their homes alone and lead solitary and isolated lives. Guide Dogs works for a world where people with vision loss are never excluded from life, for a world where being blind or partially sighted is not what defines you, but a world in which there is enough support to make the challenges of sight loss an obstacle to realizing hopes and dreams.
Larkhall Scott man, 51, who was awarded the MBE in recognition of his fundraising efforts: ‘When I lost my sight completely for three weeks in 1993 I suddenly had no job, no future, no independence, no confidence and absolutely no hope at all.
“Guide dogs have given me everything back: to be able to become independent again and lead a very confident and active life.
From my first guide dog Ike to Travis, Milo and now Lincoln, each has given me incredible memories.
“They have also given me a boost of self-esteem, allowing me to return to a healthy and fit lifestyle, taking on outdoor challenges – all of this would have been impossible without them.
“I’m so grateful to Stacey for kindly choosing to take on this epic challenge to benefit Guide Dogs, every penny donated will help give another blind person the active, independent lifestyle I’ve been blessed to enjoy. thanks to this amazing charity.”
Scott, who completed the 2022 Therme Manchester Marathon earlier this month, said: “Thank you Stacey and thank you all for helping to change the life of a blind person here in Scotland. I know first hand the difference Guide Dogs has made in a life. Please dig deep and help me help thousands of others. They can literally change people’s lives.
Stacey, who hopes to attract additional sponsors, will be hosting raffles and other fundraising activities as the epic ride approaches, including a barn dance.
To donate through Stacey’s crowdfunding page, visit www.justgiving.com/fundraising/stacey-mccallum-climpytokilamanjaro
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