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1 May 2020 Personal Stories

Inspirational Cerys walks 26 miles in memory of her Dad

Inspirational 11-year-old Cerys Garner of Lepton is walking 26 miles to raise money for Kirkwood in memory of her special dad, Richard. Despite living with cerebral palsy, epilepsy and a visual impairment, Cerys has set herself an ambitious challenge to raise funds for Kirkwood. As part of the 2.6 Challenge, Cerys will walk every day until she completes her own personal marathon. And it’s all to say thank you for making her last Christmas with her Dad so special.

Here at Kirkwood, we were in complete awe this week to hear from Cerys and her Mum, Nicola Garner, who are taking part in the 2.6 challenge for Kirkwood for a very special reason.

When Cerys was born, parents, Nicola and Richard Garner were told that their beautiful daughter would never walk or talk. Shortly after this, Cerys was diagnosed with cerebral palsy, epilepsy and a visual impairment. Never did they expect to have the strong-willed and determined daughter that they have today.

But strong willed Cerys has defied many odds in her short life, and her mum, Nicola, couldn’t be prouder.

“Cerys has shown to be a fighter. She is a very chatty young girl and has fought to do everything she is doing today.” said Nicola. “She tells me that she loves me every single day.”

In February 2019, the family of three’s worlds were torn apart when they were given that news that their beloved Husband, and Dad, Richard, had skin cancer.

The Garner Family.

 

Following Richard’s diagnosis, the Garner family tried their best to carry on with normal day-to-day life as much possible, and were determined to create special memories as a family.

Nicola said: “Cerys had been asking Richard and I to get married for many years. She’s a real girly girl and really wanted to be a bridesmaid and wear a beautiful dress for the day.”

So, after 15 years of unwedded bliss, Nicola and Richard made their love official – and made Cerys’ dream come true – when they tied the knot at Huddersfield Town Hall.

Cerys in her beautiful bridesmaid dress.

 

Sadly, later that year, Richard’s condition started to deteriorate. He began to struggle more and more with the symptoms of his illness. After a home visit from Kirkwood’s Community Nursing Team, Richard was admitted to Kirkwood’s In-Patient Unit in December last year – just as the festive season was approaching.

 “As a family, we were absolutely dreading Christmas – we didn’t know what to expect.” said Nicola.

“But Christmas  was the opposite of what we expected at Kirkwood. We had such a good time and laughed so much. We don’t have any sad memories, they are all just happy and fun.

“One of my favourite memories was on Christmas Eve when Santa and the choir visited Kirkwood. Cerys’s eyes lit up as Santa handed her a gift – it was such a special moment for us.

“On Christmas Day, we were able to spend quality time together as a family. Richard and I watched Cerys open all of her presents. And throughout the day, the nurses would keep popping in to our room to pull crackers with us. It was great.”

The Garner family with Santa at Kirkwood in December 2019.

 

Shortly after Christmas, on the 3rd January 2020, Richard sadly died. He was just 51.

“People think of death when they hear the word hospice, but it’s not like that at all.” said Nicola.

“The care is always there for you, it isn’t just about the time you spend at the hospice, it continues for as long as you need it.”

During Richard’s illness, Cerys pushed herself to walk without the support of her wheelchair. Her parents were blown away by her sheer determination and watched in awe as Cerys became more and more confident each day.

Cerys continues to push herself every day. It’s become harder during the Coronavirus pandemic, but Nicola has been making sure that Cerys doesn’t lose her strength and continues to stay active.

“Even during this lockdown period, it is important that we stay active and go outdoors a few times a week to keep Cerys’ joints and muscles working.

“When I heard about the 2.6 challenge, I mentioned it to Cerys and I said that we had already been out walking lots, so why not use it as a way to raise money for Kirkwood.”

Delighted by her Mum’s idea, Cerys agreed. Later that same evening, Nicola set up a Just Giving Fundraising page for Cerys, and within an hour they had exceeded their target of £100!

“Cerys gets so excited every time she receives a new donation. This really encourages her to keep walking. At the moment we go out four times a week, and will keep doing this for Kirkwood until we reach 26 miles.

Cerys is always joined on her walks by canine companion, Lily, who Nicola says encourages her along on every walk.

Cerys with her canine companion, Lily.

 

“Kirkwood will always be special to us. The people there become your friends; I used to look forward to seeing everyone. No matter what their role is, everyone makes such a difference. Seeing their smiley and friendly faces just meant so much.

“In the future, I would like to volunteer at Kirkwood, in hospitality, and make a difference to other families as they did for us.”

On Cerys’s Fundraising challenge, Nicola said: “Richard would be so proud of Cerys and what she is doing.

You can find out more about Cerys’s challenge and support her by clicking here.

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