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Arena survivor hopes to ‘move mountains’ for disabled people after climb

Martin Hibbert will climb Mount Kilimanjaro over seven days in a specially adapted wheelchair and hopes to raise a million.

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Martin Hibbert and the team who will be climbing Mount Kilimanjaro to raise money for the Spinal Injuries Association (Ollie Buncombe/SIA/PA)

Martin Hibbert and the team who will be climbing Mount Kilimanjaro to raise money for the Spinal Injuries Association (Ollie Buncombe/SIA/PA)

Martin Hibbert and the team who will be climbing Mount Kilimanjaro to raise money for the Spinal Injuries Association (Ollie Buncombe/SIA/PA)

A father who was paralysed in the Manchester Arena attack has said climbing Mount Kilimanjaro is just the start of his plan to “move mountains” for disabled people.

Martin Hibbert, 45, will fly to Tanzania next week and embark on the seven-day trek in a specially adapted wheelchair in the hope of raising £1 million for the Spinal Injuries Association (SIA).

He said: “This is actually going to be the easiest part of it, even though we’re climbing Kilimanjaro.

“The actual work starts when we get back in terms of the bigger message about wanting to change the landscape for disabled people, especially people with spinal cord injuries.

“We’re going to be climbing a mountain but to get the changes that we need when we come back we’re going to have to move mountains.”

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Martin Hibbert, who was injured in the Manchester Arena attack, and his team on a training walk ahead of their Mount Kilimanjaro challenge (Ollie Buncombe/SIA/PA)

Martin Hibbert, who was injured in the Manchester Arena attack, and his team on a training walk ahead of their Mount Kilimanjaro challenge (Ollie Buncombe/SIA/PA)

Martin Hibbert, who was injured in the Manchester Arena attack, and his team on a training walk ahead of their Mount Kilimanjaro challenge (Ollie Buncombe/SIA/PA)

He said he hoped the climb would prove what disabled people were able to do when they had the right help and support.

He told the PA news agency: “That’s why I’m doing Kilimanjaro because I needed to get people’s attention to say ‘look at what’s happening in the UK at the minute, did you know that seven people in the UK a day get a spinal cord injury but only one in three get the help and support I did to live a fulfilled life?’ I just think that’s wrong.

“That’s what I want to change. It’s not going to be easy. Hopefully with what we’re doing – raising awareness, educating people, changing the perception of disability – hopefully people will get behind us and support us so we can start a revolution and take it to the next level.

“That’s the bit that I’m excited about, that’s the bit that I can’t wait to get my teeth into.”

Mr Hibbert, from Chorley, Lancashire, said he and his daughter Eve, who was then aged 14, were six metres away from suicide bomber Salman Abedi.

He said: “Nobody can explain how we survived.

“I’m not religious but there must be a reason.

“Maybe this is it, maybe my job is for this moment, maybe my job in the world is to change the landscape.

“I don’t know if that is right but it makes me feel very good when I say it and it’s the only thing really that makes sense.”

After the climb is complete, Mr Hibbert said he plans to be the first person in a wheelchair to climb to Mount Everest base camp, and also hopes to see social care legislation changed.

He said: “I want to talk about my story for it to be a catalyst for change.”

Mr Hibbert’s mother, Janice, died last October and he plans to scatter some of her ashes at the summit.

He said: “I know she’ll be with me in spirit and is very proud.”

To donate go to martins-mountain.justgiving-sites.com

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