News

Mum's epic challenge in memory of Cecelia

28 April 2020
Otley mum Esme Westmoreland has raised nearly £7,000 for Martin House Hospice Care for Children and Young People in memory of her daughter Cecelia in just one day.

While people up and down the country were taking part in 2.6 challenges to mark what should have been the London Marathon, Esme took on 26 challenges, all completed in one day.

From physical challenges to baking, Esme’s challenges – set by friends and family – included a 26-round exercise class, with 26 reps of 26 different exercises, tossing a pancakes 26 times, a 26-second freezing cold shower, 26 ‘armless’ burpees and launching herself 26 times down a homemade slip and slide.

She took on the challenge in memory of her daughter Cecelia, who would have been 15 months old on Sunday. Cecelia died nine weeks ago, less than a month after celebrating her first birthday.

Cecelia was diagnosed with a genetic condition called 1.p36 shortly after she was born, and when she was six months old, doctors told Esme and her husband James that her condition was life-limiting, and the family were referred to Martin House.

They received regular respite stays at the hospice, assistance with advance care planning, and they were able to take Cecelia to one of its cooled bedrooms after she died, where they could spend more time with her, and they continue to receive bereavement support from the hospice.

Esme said: “Ever since we first accessed Martin House, we have always said that we needed to do a big fundraising event as a way of thanks for all the support we were receiving.

“When Cecelia died, we came up with the idea to do a five- day walk through the Yorkshire Dales from Swaledale to home, via all the places we’d been to in the Dales with her. We planned to ask family and friends to join us for part, all or just a pub stop on the walk, but Covid-19 soon cast doubt on when we when we would even be able to plan this.

“When I first saw the London Marathon’s 2.6 Challenge advertised by Martin House on social media, I started to wonder how we could do something to help. We knew that planned respite had been cancelled by the hospice and all fundraising had pretty much dropped off a cliff overnight.

“I asked the ladies in my exercise class if they would be interested if I organised something. They came up with all sorts of suggestions, so by Thursday it had kind of escalated and I thought I’d set myself the challenge of doing 26 different things.”

Esme wanted a mixture of exercise, entertainment and imaginative challenges, and she posted updates of her progress on Instagram throughout the day.

Her challenges started at 5.14am, as she’d set her alarm for 26 minutes before sunrise, and then she completed a 2.6-mile run in 26 minutes.

This was followed by the preparation of 26 packets of wildflower seeds, drawing 26 rainbows, writing 26 messages to explain what she was doing and distributing them 2.6km around Otley in the hope people would pick them up. This idea was a way to help spread awareness of the work Martin House do in the wider community.

By mid-morning Esme had smashed the £2,600 she was hoping for, when family, friends and even people the family didn’t know had started to come up with their own imaginative challenges to support the cause too.

These included a 26-minute dance party by a cousin and her friends on lockdown in Paris, 26 dandelion clocks collected with 26 seconds to blow off all the seeds in Shrewsbury, the first 26 Kings & Queens of England memorised and recited with their dates of their rule from a flat in London.

A family in Bristol ran 26 laps of 1km round the block, 26 minutes of sleeping lions in Dubai, 26 London landmarks photographed on an hour’s walk by a friend in London and a 260-word support poem written by a schoolteacher from Wakefield.

Esme said: “We’re extremely proud of what we have achieved; to raise such a significant amount of money for Martin House in Cecelia’s memory is fantastic. It turned out to be such an enjoyable day and was amazing to receive all the fantastic messages of support and encouragement from all over the country and the world, including France, Germany, Dubai, Singapore and New Zealand.

“We’ll look back on this day in lockdown with fond memories of being able to bring people together and most importantly raise awareness for the invaluable support Martin House provide to families all over Yorkshire. It really felt people where there with us cheering us on from our own back garden, rather than just over the internet!”

You can read Cecelia’s story at www.martinhouse.org.uk/Cecelia while donations can be made to Esme’s Just Giving page at www.justgiving.com/esme-s-2-6-challenge before Monday 3rd May.