Trustee and keen sportsman Stephen Sutcliffe will take on not one but two epic challenges for Meningitis Now this year
Stephen will be swimming in the Arctic Circle in July and, as if that wasn’t enough, will also take on the 24 Peaks Trek in September.
On the 15th of July Stephen will swim above the Arctic Circle from Finland to Sweden. With ten years of open swimming experience, he was ready for a unique adventure. But the challenge doesn’t only fulfil his personal sporting goals – Stephen is taking on the swim in memory of his childhood friend Kate, who died of meningitis 40 years ago.
Stephen will start his swim at midnight, in the bright light of the Finnish summer. He will continue over the border to Sweden, crossing the Arctic Circle and a time zone, meaning he will technically reach the finish line the day before the competition began!
The idea of swimming a cold, turbulent river with unpredictable currents would pose a daunting challenge to many, but Stephen is well prepared:
“I learnt to swim from an early age. I swam competitively until my teenage years before moving into Water Polo. Swimming for me is great exercise, a way to lose myself and relax, and I love the rough and tumble of sea swimming.
Stephen fondly remembers swimming in local swimming clubs with Kate when they were children:
“We used to have a great time, training several times a week, competing in galas every weekend. We once swam in a gala with future Olympian Adrian Moorhouse. He showed us why he would go on to swim in the Olympics! He was phenomenal.”
Kate died of meningitis in 1982 when she was only twelve years old. Her death had a profound impact on Stephen, who knew very little about meningitis at the time. Unbeknownst to him it wouldn’t be the last time he was touched by the effects of meningitis.
Stephen lives with his partner, Jo, and his stepson Charlie on a small holding in Yorkshire. Life wasn’t always so peaceful – Charlie contracted pneumococcal meningitis when he was nine months old. He was put into a coma in an attempt to stabilise his critical condition. His life hung in the balance.
Fortunately, Charlie overcame meningitis, and he is now a healthy 22-year-old. Charlie lives with an acquired brain injury, an after-effect of meningitis, and he overcomes challenges every day. Stephen has been inspired by his resilience:
“I am so proud of the amazing young man he has become. It is an honour to be able to undertake this challenge for him and Meningitis Now. He has grown into a beautiful young man who inspires us every day”.
Stephen will be taking on the 24 Peaks Trek, which will take him to the top of some of the Lake District's highest peaks over one weekend in September. Stephen will trek for twelve hours each day, covering 28 miles over the weekend. With an overall 12,5000ft ascent, the 24 Peaks challenge is one of the UK’s most demanding adventures.
Stephen says, “Saddleworth moor is on my doorstep, so I take the dog out for long training walks. As I’ll be walking for nearly 30 miles, with quite an ascent, keeping my energy levels up and looking after my feet will be very important!”
Meningitis Now provided support, guidance and counselling to Charlie’s Mum Jo during their ordeal. The impact of this support is still being felt today - it has not only inspired Stephen to fundraise for Meningitis Now but Charlie has taken up a challenge too.
Charlie will be running 10k with his personal trainer James to support other families going through a similar experience to his.
Charlie says, “I decided to do this run in order to raise money to support Meningitis Now to continue to do the amazing work they do raising awareness and supporting families who have experienced a meningitis diagnosis.
"Hopefully we will raise as much money as we can to help other families like ours to get the right support at a time in their lives when they need it the most!
For more information and to support Stephen’s fundraising please see his swim here and trek challenge here. For Charlie’s 10k fundraiser see here.