Courageous Bel Cornwell has this month completed an epic 100 mile challenge in her powered wheelchair, battling through winter weather, tightening lockdown restrictions and injury to raise funds for Sue Ryder Leckhampton Court Hospice, who have been supporting her.
From a marathon to 100 miles
Bel, from Winchcombe in Gloucestershire, was diagnosed with debilitating Motor Neurone Disease nearly six years ago and has since lost the ability to walk and talk.
Last summer, to raise funds for the hospice supporting her, Bel completed a ‘marathon’ of 11 walks of 4km, raising £7,000 for Sue Ryder Leckhampton Court Hospice.
As well as raising vital funds for Sue Ryder, the challenge brought Bel and her family – son Joby and daughter Letty - so many health and wellbeing benefits they decided to clock up a further 100 miles, which they started in November 2020.
Over the past six months determined Bel has faced snow, ice, freezing temperatures, gales, ever changing lockdown restrictions and even a broken collar bone and ribs to get herself to the finish line – which she crossed in her Cotswold hometown on Sunday 23 May.
Reaching the finale of the challenge
Bel said, “After getting off to a great start with the 100 mile challenge last November, I had an accident resulting in me breaking my collarbone and three ribs.
“Then the hope of completing my walks within a few months was further quashed by the country going back into lockdown before Christmas.
“Living in a 'bubble' with only my son Joby meant if we were to carry on crunching more miles, we needed to do it together, until it was safe to include family and friends again.”
“To reach the finale of the 100 mile challenge made me realise just how much we have all achieved. Feelings of elation and gratitude, to everyone involved, made this last day truly special.”
Mum is our inspiration always
Bel’s daughter, Letty, added, “Although the national lockdown has prevented me from walking with Mum, I am so proud of her determination and resilience to complete the 100 miles challenge. It’s been a tough one for her to sustain, especially with all the extremes of weather. She is our inspiration always.”
Before she was diagnosed with MND Bel, who worked as a teaching assistant and in recent years as the Co-ordinator for Partnerships, Community Action and Charities at Cheltenham College, was fit and active.
Bel added, “Living with MND has stripped me of so many things, like no longer being able to work, and these challenges have given me a definite sense of purpose. The walks also had a significantly positive influence on my mental and physical well-being and I realised how important it is to maintain that, for as long as I can.”
“Having Sue Ryder in our lives really does make a difference”
Bel’s challenges are raising funds for Leckhampton Court Hospice, which has been providing care to her and her family and continues to support Bel following an inpatient stay last year, through its occupational health team visiting her home to help get all the right equipment in place, and regular phone contact with the hospice healthcare team.
Bel explains, “As a family we continue to benefit from the support of Sue Ryder, which is why we are committed to doing whatever we can to help them continue with their life-enhancing work. Following my fall last year, right from the start medical staff from Sue Ryder worked diligently to provide the care that I needed.
“Their attention to detail, from medication to medical equipment, ensured my every need was met. Knowing they were there gave me such peace of mind that I will never forget.”
“Having Sue Ryder in our lives really does make a difference. They have given me and my family true peace of mind, helping us to manage the different stages of Motor Neurone Disease, with a focus on maximising the best quality of life as possible.”
Walking on to support our care
Always up for a challenge and wanting to do more to support Sue Ryder, the family’s fundraising doesn’t stop there! Joby and his two friends, James Sheppy and Joe White, will be trekking the National Three Peaks on 11 and 12 June for the Three Peaks Challenge, aiming to scale all three peaks in just 24 hours.
The trio are under a strict training regime already, with Joby completing a 16 mile practice in the Brecon Beacons around his regular walks to reach 100 miles with Bel, with another training trek coming up in the Peak District soon.
Joby said, “I wanted to carry on raising awareness of the outstanding work that Sue Ryder does. The help they have given Mum especially has taken much of the worry away from our family. We know that they will always be here supporting us all the way through.”
“It has made me very happy and proud to be part of completing the 100 mile challenge with Mum. It has been especially rewarding, raising money for Sue Ryder, now so close to our hearts. I can’t wait to see how much we will have raised following the Three Peaks adventure.
“The effect this illness has had has been heart-breaking and testing for us all, in particular for our mum, who faces challenges every day. Mum has inspired me all the way throughout my life – and always will do.”
Turning dreams to reality
And Bel continues to inspire, as before she has even crossed the 100 mile finish line she’s already planning her next and final challenge - walking with Letty and Joby in the Malvern Hills following the nine mile ‘End to End’ route in August.
Bel said, “I can honestly say that these challenges have been such an incredible time, and an unforgettable experience. One that has been full of laughter, hilarity and happiness - and one that simply goes down as a truly special moment in time. My challenges may have seemed a mad hatter moment at the beginning, but then with all the support and love of everyone - it is turning my dreams into reality.”
Help Bel and her family reach their fundraising target
Support Bel’s 100 mile challenge and help raise crucial funds for Sue Ryder through the Cornwell Family's JustGiving page