Bel Cornwell was diagnosed with debilitating Motor Neurone Disease more than five years ago. Since then she has lost the ability to walk and talk and is confined to a wheelchair, but recently completed her own ‘marathon’ challenge in aid of Sue Ryder’s Leckhampton Court Hospice. Supported by her children, Letty and Joby, family and friends, Bel covered the distance of a marathon during 11 separate walks of 4km around her home town of Winchcombe.
Bel completes her marathon challenge
A huge sense of fulfilment
Before Bel was diagnosed with Motor Neurone Disease, she worked as a teaching assistant at Cheltenham College, was fit and active and ran half marathons. Daughter Letty said: “We even did a mud run together and mum really loved the fundraising element of that. There are lots of fundraisers we could have done as a family but we really wanted mum to be involved so she came up with this idea. She felt she could do it over a set number of days and equate it to the distance of a marathon and has mapped out routes she can do in her wheelchair.
“We have got different people coming to support her on different days for all the walks. It will give mum a huge sense of fulfilment and she will be so happy knowing that she has been able to give something back to Leckhampton.”
“Mum will be so happy knowing that she has been able to give something back to Leckhampton”
Bel began her walks on Sunday, July 12, and completed the challenge on Sunday, July 26. Before beginning, she said: “I will be covering the distance of a marathon in my powered wheelchair. Even doing 11 walks will be quite a challenge for me, which is why we have included some 'rest' days.”
Bel regularly attended Leckhampton’s Day Hospice prior to lockdown and also spent a week as an inpatient at the hospice last year. She said: “Personally, I have benefitted hugely through the wonderful array of complementary therapies Leckhampton offer. The three of us have undoubtedly been supported through Sue Ryder’s exceptional counselling.
“Some of my happiest times have been in the art room”
“Some of my happiest times have been in the art room, joining others, which has proved such wonderful therapy. For me the art room quickly became a haven, offering a sense of belonging and chance to try out new creative opportunities, in such an open and positive environment.”
The family have also been supported by Leckhampton’s occupational health team, who visited Bel’s home to help her get all the right equipment in place, and Bel has had regular phone contact with the Leckhampton healthcare team throughout lockdown.
Letty said: “The support we have had from Sue Ryder and Leckhampton Court Hospice has been above and beyond what I could have imagined. Now we have decided to do this challenge and we are really excited to have this chance to fundraise for them.
“Mum has always taught us to find the positive in every situation”
“I hope it will raise some awareness of Motor Neurone Disease. It has been really heart-breaking to be going through something like this as a family but mum has always taught us to find the positive in every situation and she really is the epitomy of that.”
Completing the challenge
With an original fundraising target of £1000, Bel managed to raise over £7,000 in total for Sue Ryder Leckhampton; a truly amazing achievement!
Having completed her 'marathon' challenge, Bel said:
“So, the end of my wheelchair challenge has arrived, and what an exhilarating two weeks it has been! It has united me, my family and friends in a shared common purpose, of raising a greater awareness of the vital role Sue Ryder plays in our community. We have also been overwhelmed by the generosity of everyone who has made a donation to this wonderful charity.
“It has united me, my family and friends in a common purpose, of raising awareness of the vital role Sue Ryder plays in our community”
“I can honestly say that it has been such an incredible time, and an unforgettable whole group experience. One that has been full of laughter, hilarity and happiness - and one that simply goes down as a truly special moment in time. It may have seemed a mad hatter moment at the beginning, but then with all the support and love of everyone - it turned a dream into reality.”
You can also find further ideas for your own fundraising challenges and other ways you can help support our palliative, neurological and bereavement care.