Westbury family set a charity challenge a month in memory of Ailsa

The Westbury family , from left,  Matthew, Tony, Kirsty and Heather.
The Westbury family , from left, Matthew, Tony, Kirsty and Heather.
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The children and husband of a Borders doctor killed by cancer last year have launched a year-long fundraising campaign aimed at raising £10,000 for charity.

Choosing to focus on the year ahead instead of the tragedy that hit them in November, the Westbury family, of Melrose, have found a fitting way to remember their mum and wife, Galashiels-based doctor Ailsa Wylie.

Ailsa Wylie

Ailsa Wylie

Their ‘A Year for Ailsa’ campaign hopes to raise £10,000 to support the Macmillan Cancer Support centre and the Margaret Kerr Unit at the Borders General Hospital in Melrose, the Maggie’s Centre in Edinburgh and Melrose charity Hope for Life.

A Year For Ailsa was set up by her children – Matthew, 10, Kirsty, 13, and Heather, 14 – after she lost her battle with cancer in November last year at the age of 49.

The children, pupils at Melrose Primary School and Earlston High School, have set their target and challenges for the coming year with the help of dad Tony, 53.

“Most of it has come from the children, to be honest. Kirsty is a little powerhouse, and she is absolutely determined it’s all going to happen and that we will hit our target,” Tony said. “It’s just something they wanted to do, and it’s giving them a focus each month.

The Westbury family , from left,  Matthew, Tony, Kirsty and Heather.

The Westbury family , from left, Matthew, Tony, Kirsty and Heather.

“I can’t imagine what it is like for them to have lost their mum at their age.”

The challenge kicks off this month with a Zumbathon in Langlee, for which more than 70 of Ailsa’s friends have signed up to take part already.

And further fund raisers, one each month for the rest of 2017, are already taking shape.

For Tony, a sports science lecturer at Edinburgh Napier University, the year will see him take part in a number of challenges including the Tour de Lauder, swimming the length of St Mary’s Loch and travelling to the French Alps to take part in the world-renowned Marmotte Bike Race with his brother Patrick and Melrose GP John McDonagh.

Other challenges will see Heather tackle her fear of heights with 50 climbs, Kirsty will run her first six-mile race and Matthew will organise a winter football contest and join his dad in a February head-shave.

All four will take part in a 24-hour bike marathon at the Borders General Hospital in March and will attempt a tech-free month in November before the campaign culminates in December with a ceilidh.

Each challenge has been picked by the family as something Ailsa would have been proud to have seen them achieve or something she would have enjoyed herself.

“That is why the Zumbathon is so appropriate,” Tony added. “She enjoyed any kind of exercise that involved dancing, being in a group and laughing.”

However, he admits: “No wifi for a month for a house with teenagers in it, I’m not looking forward to that one. I think they are going to be very ratty for a whole month.”

Ailsa, a lead clinician for sexual health based in Galashiels, first battled cancer in 2001. She underwent treatment for breast cancer before receiving the all-clear, only to diagnosed with secondary cancers in her spine and liver four years later in November 2015.

Tony admits to being “absolutely astonished” and “a little bit overwhelmed” at the level of support so far.

With more than £1,600 raised in donations for the Margaret Kerr Unit at Ailsa’s funeral last year and a further £1,800 raised at the Melrose Primary end-of-term service before Christmas, the family are already well on their way to their £10,000 target.

They are being backed all the way in their challenge by Ailsa’s workmates and friends.

Tony said: “All of them I have spoken to have this profound sense of there being something missing from their lives now. It’s a way of keeping her memory alive.”

Tony added: “The irony of all this is that Ailsa’s mum died when Ailsa was eight. She was deeply traumatised by the fact that she went out one day, came back and she wasn’t there, and it was never spoken about. I don’t want that to happen to our children.”

For more details, go to www.facebook.com/ayearforailsa