Five valiant teenagers who raised well over £3,000 for Young Epilepsy have won an award for their commitment to the community. They were presented with this at a special awards ceremony at Brandshatch Place which was hosted by Phil Harrison of BBC Radio Kent. The teenagers had walked 25 miles from Gravesend to London South Bank to raise money for the charity, Young Epilepsy.
These awards are organised annually by Paula Kerr of Fitter Stronger, which aims to recognise and reward those who have given up their time and energy to help others within their community.
The charity, Young Epilepsy, is very special to 15 year old Bonnie O’Brien, whose 8 year old brother was diagnosed with epilepsy when he was just 3 years old. Bonnie knows how important Young Epilepsy is in supporting those youngsters diagnosed with this illness, as well as their families, and she persuaded four close friends to take on the fundraising challenge with her.
Bonnie and friends – Ellen Jenkins, Charlotte Benson, Mia Pennington all pupils of Mayfield Grammar School, and Olivia Ray who attends Dartford Grammar – set off from Gravesend at the crack of dawn on Saturday 24th April, and after nearly 12 hours walking the Thames Path arrived at the London Eye, worn and weary, and with very blistered feet, but extremely jubilant that they had actually managed to achieve their goal.
They admitted the walk had been much harder than they had first imagined, but they were supported along the way with many rousing comments on social media along with donations, all of which inspired them to keep on going. They were also helped along by their parents who took it in turn to arrive in various places on route with refreshments.
Passing Tower Bridge, by now tired and exhausted, but with only one more mile to go, they were cheered on by the crowds sitting outside the local hostelries. This gave them a massive boost and really spurred them on to the finish.
Bonnie, who already had blistered feet at the start, having done several practice walks with the girls ahead of the challenge, was quite clear at the finish: “I will never run a marathon”, she said. But with blisters long gone, and strength restored, she’s already considering the next challenge.
How did Bonnie manage to persuade her friends to take on such a mission? “We were so bored during lockdown and wanted something worthwhile to do. So I got the idea of doing something to support this charity which is so close to my heart”. Friend Ellen, a little reluctant at first, says: “I’m so glad to have been able to take part. It was such a great experience and I can’t thank everyone enough for all their support and donations”.
The award was presented to them by Georgina Fearn of Young Epilepsy, and afterwards they were interviewed for the BBC Breakfast Show. Bonnie’s mum, Emma, said: “We are so incredibly proud of them all, and so pleased Bonnie’s friends supported her whacky idea. What an amazing achievement for them”. Cllr Dibben agrees: “A truly outstanding effort – they should all be so very proud of themselves”.