Guest Blog: John O’Groats to Lands End, Marathons, Cookbooks and Other Adventures

In the lead up to my own John O’Groats to Land’s End cycling challenge I asked fellow fundraiser and Wish Dad, Tony Frobisher, to write a guest blog. His journey are inspirational, his and Milla’s is a story that has touched my heart and been a source of motivation as the challenges got tougher. So please, take the time to read this very special update;

Fundraising. What is the point? I mean you have got the ‘Biggies’ every year…Children In Need, Comic relief, Sport Relief. Surely they get enough to go round. Surely they cover enough charitable causes.

Well, perhaps they do, due to their immense popularity and high profile. I applaud the likes of Davina McCall pushing her physical and mental endurance to breaking point cycling, swimming and running from Edinburgh to London in 5 days. I am in awe of David Walliams swimming the length of the Thames and ingesting the full gamut of water borne bacteria along the way. Davina, David and so many other celebrities lend their name and raise millions by undertaking incredible challenges. And I hope they continue to inspire and achieve as every pound earnt is deserved and will help change lives for the better.

But fundraising is probably 1% celebrities and 99% the everyday person in the street, someone with a story to tell and a reason to try to raise money to help others. Sometimes the connection is personal and sometimes the cause is something the person has found an affinity with, been inspired by. And resolved to set out to raise money and by doing so, contribute to changing lives.

But with so many causes and so much fundraising it can be hard to raise your own profile and to generate interest. No one said fundraising was easy. In fact, the hardest part of running a marathon for a charity is often not the run itself. You train for it, you see the finish line as something attainable, a realistic goal. It can be trying to raise money. Beyond close friends and family, unless you are a Davina McCall or David Walliams, how do you get people to invest, time and money, in your fundraising?

My Fundraising Journey

My involvement in fundraising is personal. In 2006 my triplet daughters, Jewel, Louisa and Milla were born in Liverpool. Triplets?! Yes. 3 beautiful girls. But they were born 16 weeks prematurely, weighing only around 630g each. The odds on survival were sadly stacked against them. Jewel lived for only a short time. After 17 days she passed away due to complications from her traumatic birth. However, Louisa and Milla battled against infections and complications, numerous operations on their eyes and in Louisa’s case her heart and managed to defy the odds. After 6 months in hospital we finally brought them home. Unfortunately, after a year Milla was diagnosed with spastic quadriplegia cerebral palsy. She was unable to walk, talk, sit or stand unaided and had to be fed via a stomach tube. A life of challenges, but Milla was so happy and her smile was a constant presence.

In December last year, Milla passed away unexpectedly as a result of sepsis infection. The loss of Milla hit my wife, Louisa and I very hard. As it did our families and friends and so many people who had played a significant role in Milla’s health, education and care in the 10.5 years she was with us.

Since 2007 I have been actively fundraising. I decided then I would try to raise money and give something back. I wanted other families in our situation to be able to receive the care, help and companionship we had experienced from charities and other organisations.

In June 2007, I cycled and ran between Worcestershire Royal Hospital and Liverpool Women’s Hospital. There and back, a total of around 220 miles cycling and 17 miles running. I raised over £4,000 for Bliss, the premature baby charity. From then on, I decided to raise as much as I could every year and embarked on different challenges for various charities. I cycled to London and back (250 miles), Worcester to Dublin and back (450 miles in 6 days), climbed Kilimanjaro and trekked 90 miles to Everest base camp and back all for Scope. But in 2012, Make-A-Wish UK granted Milla a wish. My wife Rini, Louisa and I travelled with Milla to Florida and spent a fantastic week at the Give Kids The World Village; a purpose built holiday village for families of children with life limiting conditions. This included VIP tickets to all the Disney theme parks. It was an amazing, never to be forgotten experience for us all. 

As a result, I decided I would raise funds for Make-A-Wish. Their sole purpose is to provide children with life limiting conditions a special wish. Something that they will treasure for a lifetime, however long that may be. A holiday, meeting their favourite singer or sports personality, a piece of life changing equipment, a room makeover etc. Each wish creates two wonderful things; happiness and memories. 

In 2013 I embarked upon my most challenging year of fundraising. I set out to run the London Marathon and 5 weeks later to cycle from John O’Groats to Lands End. 1,000 miles in 10 days with 3 friends. Two of the most physically demanding challenges I have ever done. But to complete them and raise over £8,000 for Make-A-Wish was the most satisfying feeling. In addition I wrote and published a charity cookbook, Milla’s Cookbook, which included recipes from various celebrities, friends and family from over 40 countries. I have since produced a second cookbook, Milla’s Inspiration and have completed other cycling challenges on behalf of Acorns Children’s Hospice where Milla received respite stays.

Last month I attempted to cycle 200 miles in a day for Make-A-Wish from Worcester to Eastbourne. While I did not achieve 200 miles, I set a new personal record and cycled 153 miles. At the age of 49 and nearly 14 stones (90kg) it was a difficult, but rewarding challenge. I raised £1,700 for Make A Wish. In total I have raised over £35,000 for Bliss, Scope, Acorns Children’s Hospice and Make A Wish. My own personal achievements pale into insignificance compared to the feeling of pride I have in helping others. The smile on the face of one wish child makes every step walked or run and every hill cycled up worth it. Pain is nothing, when happiness in others is the result.

Guy Stapleford and Miles For Wishes

Guy and myself got in contact initially following an article I wrote for Make-A-Wish. I was astounded to see the year of challenges Guy had set out to attempt on behalf of Make A Wish. Running half and full marathons, cycling vast distances, climbing mountains, walking long distance paths etc. Incredible. We met during my 200 miles in a day cycle challenge and cycled 50 miles together to Camberley where we had the pleasure of spending time at the headquarters of Make-A-Wish.

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Tony Frobisher (Left) and Guy Stapleford (Right) at Make-A-Wish HQ in Camberley

I carried on and Guy cycled back home; but I knew I had made a wonderful friend. Someone who was motivated to do something for others. To push himself and achieve not just a physical goal, but doing his best to help others less fortunate. But in particular, children. As fathers, Guy and I understood how important the value of happiness is in children. But especially children who spend their lives in hospital, doctors’ appointments, experiencing discomfort and pain and illness. For us, the most incredible gift and the most comforting of medicines was the smiles Make-A-Wish generate by granting these special wishes.

When I learnt from Guy that he was going to cycle from John O’Groats to Lands End I was keen to share my experiences in relation to the route we took, the planning and logistics, where to stay etc. But then I learnt that unlike myself cycling with 3 friends and a support crew who cooked our meals and looked after us on the road, he is doing this challenge alone. Unsupported. And carrying everything he needs. From spare clothes to bicycle tools. The lot. Wow, tough challenge I thought. Then he told me he is doing it not in 10 days, but 9. Wow, even tougher. Good luck.

But then he informed me he wasn’t doing it in May like me. Or July. Or even September.

No, this is scheduled for next month. NOVEMBER.

Wow….that is bloody tough. Not only has Guy to motivate himself, to cycle alone, he has to contend with short daylight hours, possible freezing cold and potentially very wet conditions. The possibility for strong winds and autumnal storms. And carrying additional weight. It is a good job he weighs about 15kg less than me

I will join Guy on the road for part of his route into Worcester and on towards Bristol the next day. I will do my best to support him and wish him the best of luck. It is people like Guy, one of the vast Make-A-Wish fundraising family, that continue to motivate me and even though we have lost Milla, make me want to continue to raise funds for the charity.

I want other children to be as happy as Milla was.

So, although many people have not heard about Guy Stapleford, for me Guy is as much a Davina McCall or David Walliams in what he has achieved so far and continues to achieve. My only sadness is that Guy never met Milla and received one of her beautiful smiles; he deserves it.

Please help Guy raise as much as possible for Make-A-Wish!

Tony Frobisher,

Worcester, October 2017

Find out more

If you’d like to find out more about Tony’s journey or buy a copy of Milla’s Inspiration then head over to http://millasinspiration.weebly.com

Get involved

If you’d like to donate to Guy’s fundraising efforts and help reach the £5,000 target for Make-A-Wish UK then please go to www.justgiving.com/milesforwishes

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