Westbury’s smash their A Year for Ailsa target

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

The Westbury family have had some “epic adventures and bittersweet moments” since launching a year-long fundraising campaign back in January, they say.

After losing their mum and wife Ailsa Wylie to cancer, the Melrose family decided to focus on a year of fundraising for 2017 instead of the tragedy that hit them in November.

Ailsa Wylie.

Ailsa Wylie.

Setting themselves at least one challenge a month for the year, and a fundraising total of £10,000, the family’s campaign kicked off with a charity Zumbathon, and further fundraisers have taken place each month since without fail.

The children, pupils at Melrose Primary School and Earlston High School have taken on challenging runs, climbs, head-shaves and a 24-hour bikeathon, while Tony has swum the length of St Mary’s Loch and completed the Tour de Lauder, and many more challenges, each picked as something Ailsa would have been proud to have seen the family achieve or something she would have enjoyed herself.

But little did they know that by June, six months ahead of schedule, they would have smashed that total, having now raised more than £12,000.

Tony, 53, a sports science lecturer at Edinburgh Napier University, admits to being “absolutely astonished and a little bit overwhelmed” at the level of support he and his children – Matthew, 10, Kirsty, 13, and Heather, 14, have received.

He said: “A lot of the total has come too from spontaneous things that people have done off their own backs really, and that really has been so good of everyone.

“It’s a bit overwhelming. The kids are really pleased.”

Tony says the challenge has helped his family through the summmer holidays, giving them a focus when he feared the break from school and routine distractions might have proved difficult for them.

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 be diagnosed with secondary cancers in her spine and liver four years later in November 2015.

The money raised is being split between 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.

“It’s amazing,” Tony added. “We are so grateful to everyone who has supported all our efforts.”

The campaign culminates in December with a celebratory celidh, but before that the Melrose-based Merlin Academy of Traditional Music is hosting a fundraising concert.

Academy director Bridget Gray said: “We are delighted to support a year for Ailsa, and what better way to bring everybody together than with music?

“Our students will perform, and there’ll also be a wonderful surprise along the way.”

Tickets for the concert on Friday, September 29, at 7pm in Melrose Corn Exchange are available online at eventbrite.com

For details of how to donate, go to www.facebook.com/ayearforailsa