Family walks 352 miles for mum, Keta

Kevin Street and daughters Hebe and Violet this month walked 352 miles in 15 days in memory of wife and mother Keta Hansen. On the trip they got through 27 Ordnance Survey maps, used up yards of surgical tape, and tubes of antiseptic, laughed, cried and raised money and awareness for the MND Association. Here is Kevin's account.

What was Keta's Journey and why did you decide to do it?
Keta's Journey, 352 miles from Hartlepool, where Keta my wife was born, down to Oxford where we met at university, to Battersea where my daughters were born down to Godalming where we live now. We sadly lost Keta in January after four and a half years  with MND and we wanted to do a big personal challenge specific to her and we thought we'd try to get as many people involved as possible. So the concept of the walk, with people being able to join us for different legs was the idea to create as much awareness as we could and obviously to raise money as well for the association.

How far did you walk each day?
For the first two thirds we walked about 25 miles a day and for the last third was reduced down to about 20 miles a day.

Who was with you on the journey?
There were five of us who did the whole thing. My two daughters Hebe and Violet who are 17 and 15, and then my brother and a schoolmate. The girls completed the walk which was a fantastic achievement, it was really, really tough. It took us a lot longer to walk the distances than we thought with the weather  and the terrain. We were walking for 12 to 13 hours a day to do the 25 miles, so the girls did incredibly well, we're really proud of them.

How did you recover at the end of each day?
Walking 12-13 hours we weren't getting much recovery at all. We were walking from eight in the morning  until nine or ten at night. We were walking somewhere, having something to eat, having a shower and going to bed.

Did your spirits ever flag?
They certainly did, there were some really tough, low points. There were some times when we were struggling to do the mileage when we thought we might have to extend by an extra day. There were times when we thought we were going to struggle to complete it, but we managed to always pick ourselves up and when we had a bad day it was often followed by a good day. So it was a roller coaster.

What sort of support did you get on the walk?
Lots of friends and family joined us particularly at the Hartlepool end and when we got down to Surrey, but equally people we know from various regions joined us. People travelled just to do a day with us but also a lot of people from the MND Association and strangers who had made contact through social media and joined us. When we were in Worksop a girl called Gemma made contact with us on Facebook, she was diagnosed MND when she was 29 and she's now 31, 32. She and her husband and her mum and dad met us at one of our stops to say hello and support us. Things like that were fantastic.

What were the main responses to you  on the journey?
There were just overwhelming wishes of support. I think a lot of people couldn't quite believe what we were doing. There was a lot of confusion as to what we were up to but then a lot of total amazement and a lot of people gave us donations  to put in the bucket. There were real good wishes. We were in a cafe and unbeknown to us a guy in the corner got up and paid for our meal and tried to leave without us knowing. It was only the waitress who told us. Things like that were fantastic.

How much of an impact do you think you had in raising awareness?

That's a hard thing to measure but certainly when we look at the number of messages on social media, the messages we got from celebrities, the number of people we bumped into when we were walking who heard us on the radio, the number of people who tooted their horns as they drove past,  that was amazing. I do know that the awareness we created was bigger than we had hoped for,  which has to be a success.

What was the biggest challenge on the walk?
The biggest challenge was being able to complete the distances in the day. We had some of the hottest days of the year at the start of the walk and we had torrential rain thereafter and then floods. In those conditions being able  to complete the 25 miles and avoid flooded paths was a challenge.

How did it feel when you completed the walk?
Ah it was just an amazing feeling. Obviously we did the whole thing for Keta and to raise money  for the association. It was just such a fantastic experience and an event that was so much bigger than ever envisaged with the amount of media coverage that we got and the number  of people who supported us on the walk and sent messages. It was a fantastic feeling that we'd actually done what we set out to do and that it had been bigger and better than we'd ever have thought of.

Would you call that the highlight?
Actually completing it was the absolute highlight but we had some fantastic times on the journey, meeting fantastic people and had a lot of fun amongst ourselves and with friends and family. As I  say, it was a complete roller coaster of emotions and I think at the end that the emotions all came out. There was a lot of amusement on the way, turning tough times into humour.

Would you do it again?
It was a one off event. In that context I don't think it's a specific thing that would merit doing again but certainly we are going to continue fundraising, doing more challenges and come up with different things to do.

How much are you on target to raise from your activities?
With gift aid we have just gone through 250,000 (pounds), which was our aim on this challenge. Prior to this challenge we had raised just shy of 150,000 so we set ourselves a challenge to raise about 100,000 from this event, which we've just about done.

What advice would you give to people looking to fundraise?
Just go for it. This started off as a bit of a mad idea which we pulled together and happened and it was really tough but the support that  you get from not only friends and families but complete strangers is amazing and the awareness that that generates  makes it all worthwhile. And  you  never know what's going to happen with these events, we never dreamt that we were going to get on TV and radio and in the newspapers. These things can happen and make it all the more worthwhile in terms of fund raising and awareness.

Words by Keiron Henderson - Volunteer writer

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