TWO Ards women are getting themselves and 18 others into peak condition to take part in the Friends of the Cancer Centre Slieve Donard Challenge on Saturday, September 7.
Not only will the group have the opportunity to enjoy the province's highest view point, they will also be helping to fund the official charity of the Northern Ireland Cancer Centre, based at the Belfast City Hospital.
The group of walkers will include Jennifer and Robert Lewis, Vicki, Derek and Tori Watson, Steven Irvine, Donna Glover, Ashleigh McBride, Mark Audley and Michael McBratney.
Jennifer Lewis said: "My mum, Maureen Rees passed away on New Years Eve from lung cancer and now my friend Vicky Watson's dad, Michael McBratney also from Ards, is currently undergoing treatment for the same form of cancer my mum had.
"We both found the staff at the Cancer Centre to be very polite, helpful and compassionate which really helps the patients and their families cope with such life-changing conditions. It is also what has spurred us on to raise funds for the facility's official charity by gathering as many people as possible to join us in the Slieve Donard Challenge.
"I'm looking forward to being part of this year's event and enjoying the amazing view from the top but it will be a bitter sweet experience as the event also takes place on my sixth wedding anniversary ... at least it will be highly memorable.
"There's bound to be a lot of banter along the way with everyone following each other to the top. Hopefully we'll get good weather, but I'll be prepared for anything just in case.
"The achievement won't just be reaching the top but also raising as much as we can to support Friends of the Cancer Centre that provides the funding for posts, projects and services that make a real difference to cancer patients and their families and which are outside and in addition to the provision already made by the Health Service."
She said that she had been practicing for the event by walking up and down Scrabo hill twice a week and going for regular walks and that everyone involved is in good physical condition for the hike up Donard.
The exhilarating 5.5 mile walk is well within the grasp of anyone with a reasonable level of fitness but the walk does require some preparation as well as sensible clothing and appropriate footwear on the day.
Claire McAuley, Events and Community Fundraising Manager for Friends of the Cancer Centre said: "On the day the objective is simply to reach the summit to enjoy its spectacular views, but our walkers are a highly motivated bunch and they know that every sponsored step they take will help to raise vital funds – and we are immensely grateful to each and every one of them."
The Slieve Donard Challenge will set off from the car park in Donard Park, alongside the Glen River, heading uphill through old woodland. After crossing a stile, participants follow the track above the river for about 2kms, heading towards the saddle between Donard and Commedagh, after which they can set their sights on the ultimate goal – the summit of Slieve Donard.
Registration is £10 and places are limited so early registration is recommended. Participants are encouraged to aim for £50 or more sponsorship. Under 18s must be accompanied by a parent or guardian. For more details visit www.friendsofthecancer centre.com, or contact Claire on 028 9069 firstname.lastname@example.org.