A GRAND CANYON hiker from the Borders has raised £8,000 with her friend – and neither have yet set foot in the famous USA landmark.
Primary school teacher Nicola Gibb is trekking the natural wonder in Arizona with friend Megan Thomson in October.
And the pair have raised thousands already from an auction in Kelso (£5,000), online (£1,977) and £1,000 from an Abba night in Galloway.
Nicola said: “I couldn’t believe how much money the auction made. Apparently there’s a prize from Marie Curie for the person who makes the most money so I’m going for that now! Maybe £10,000 is too ambitious but we’ll see ...”
Her 78-mile walk has come about following the death from cancer of her aunt, Jennifer Stevenson, who was cared for by Marie Curie and Macmillan nurses during the eight months she fought the disease.
“People say you are always going to know of somebody who’s had cancer but you never think it will happen to you.
“For a long time, right up until the day she died, I was in denial, I thought she was going to get better. Those ladies were working constantly to look after her. They were just so caring, we were in pieces constantly and they were just so calm, so helpful and nothing was too much hassle – everybody was so lovely.
“They don’t get enough praise or recognition or enough money – they had been fantastic and I thought what can I do?
“I feel like I’m doing something to remember my auntie by as well for myself and for them,” said Nicola.
The 28-year-old Morebattle primary teacher was initially going to raise money for Macmillan but couldn’t find the right challenge. Her mother suggested a zipwire off the Tyne bridge but a dislike of heights and water put paid to that. Then she found the overseas Marie Curie challenge which coincided with the October school holidays.
Nicola said: “I have always wanted to go to America and do Route 66 and the Grand Canyon trek immediately jumped out at me.
“I have never taken on something as big as this – I walk the dogs and I used to walk the bridges in Kelso with my friends. I read it through and just thought I’m going to do it.”
As part of their training, Nicola and Megan will do the Cairnsmore Challenge, climbing a hill near Newton Stewart for charity next month. A friend in the mountain rescue team is going to teach them how to pitch a tent and they have their boots already.
Asked what she is looking forward to, she said: “Meeting new people, seeing the fantastic landscape and trying to get fit.”
Aside from walking Murphy, a golden retriever, and Diesel, a black Labrador puppy, Nicola also rides, competing cross country on her 16.1hh TB gelding Buck.
She has already met her 25 or so fellow hikers.
“You realise there are other people in the same boat,” she said. “I was just amazed at the variety of people, backgrounds and ages: you just realise cancer affects everybody – there were people there who have lost wives and husbands.
“My auntie worked for Seaton Hall Care Home in Berwick for many years caring for others and I guess when she needed them most, thankfully, there were these fantastic nurses who were specifically trained to deal with cancer patients at the BGH and Berwick Infirmary who were there to care and look after her and our family through those tough eight months,” said Nicola.
The P3-5 teacher from Leitholm has secured a day packing shopping bags in Galashiels’ Tesco to raise more money this Saturday (March 26) and anyone wanting to help should contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Otherwise, supporters can donate online at http://original.justgiving.com/nicmeggrandcanyon which remains open until the end of the year.