Every year Rowcroft Hospice offers fundraisers the opportunity to take on extreme challenges across the world. Stoke Gabriel's Kirstin Jane has already raised thousands of pounds for Rowcroft by taking part in a 300 mile London to Paris bike ride and surviving Palm FM's Arctic Challenge in Northern Sweden. Here she talks about why she believes in making the most of every day...
When 41-year-old Kirstin Jane's father passed away she decided to take part in Rowcroft Hospice's Sleep Walk, as her father had been receiving care at the hospice before he died. Shortly afterwards Kirstin's mother was diagnosed with terminal cancer and, while also being cared for at Rowcroft, Kirstin asked her what else she could do to repay the hospice for its continued care and support. Her mother looked around the room until her eyes fell on a poster for a 300 mile London to Paris bike ride, 'What about that?' she'd asked.
"I'm pretty sure she was half joking," Kirstin admits now, "but my brother's into cycling so he immediately looked at me and said 'right, come on then'."
Up until 2012 Kirstin hadn't ridden a bike since she was ten-years-old, but her and her brother successfully completed the 300 mile ride from London to Paris in only four days. "It was the hardest thing I have ever done in my life," Kirstin says, "but it was amazing. There were 141 of us altogether, cycling through some beautiful rural towns and finishing at the Eiffel Tower. The final moments of the ride were incredible, they didn't officially close the road that we finished on but all the drivers stopped and started to beep their horns as we rode through, we finished at one of the busiest traffic islands I have ever seen. To have all those cars and drivers cheering us on was unbelievable, we ended up cycling around the island twice!"
More recently Kirstin took part in Palm FM's Arctic Challenge, which involved spending three days trying to survive in -20 degrees with a team of 14 people.
"We had to do everything ourselves," explains Kirstin, "from building shelters to keeping the camp fire going and boiling snow for drinking water, which actually tasted very nice - since I've been home I've been longing for smoky tasting drinking water, with a hint of pine needles!"
Kirstin said losing her parents has made her realise how important it is to make the most of every day, and to challenge herself with new experiences. She says: "I read a quote that said 'never walk in anyone else's footprints, it's so much more fun making your own,' and that has really inspired me to take on these challenges. It's also helped others I've chatted to; an 18-year-old boy in my village has decided to do a 60-mile run for Cancer Research and another is doing a triathlon, all because I told them about those words."
Kirstin has also come up with some innovative ways of raising the funds necessary to complete her challenges: "I've done a lot of packing bags in Morrisons and asking people in my village to donate to my crazy challenges. Last year I asked people to donate unwanted goods to me, which I then sold on via Facebook. I got £280 for a motorbike kit that was left on my drive."
Kirstin has now promised her family that she'll wait at least 12 months before taking on another challenge. But when asked about a recent conversation with Rowcroft's Community Fundraising Manager, Laura Cameron, about a trek to the Everest Base Camp next year, she says: "I've asked Laura to send me the information; I may as well have a read..."
Rowcroft Hospice runs a programme of extreme fundraising challenges; from skydives to treks along the Great Wall of China. Click here for more information.