Friends set to climb Mount Kilimanjaro to raise £50,000 for St Peter & St James Hospice

Two lifelong friends are finally ready to climb Mount Kilimanjaro for charity after being thwarted three times by Covid.

Andy ‘Ginge’ Brown and Rob Ward, who are both 55 and from Burgess Hill, are raising funds for St Peter & St James Hospice in North Chailey.

The 5,895 metre climb in Tanzania, which has already raised more than £40,000, will be in memory of Andy’s wife of 24 years, Natalie, 52, who died at the hospice on Christmas Eve in 2019.

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She had been cared for by the hospice since she received a terminal cancer diagnosis the previous year.

Rob Ward and Andy 'Ginge' Brown are raising funds for St Peter & St James Hospice.

Close family friend Rob said: “I witnessed first hand the excellent care and support that was given to Natalie, Ginge, Joe and Molly by the hospice and wanted to do something to help raise funds for this fantastic place.”

“Never in our wildest dreams did we think we would be in the position we are now having raised so much,” he said.

The services provided by St Peter & St James Hospice included counselling and Natalie regularly attended creative wellbeing sessions, which she affectionately called ‘playschool’.

Andy said: “The hospice and staff provided immense support during a very difficult time for Natalie, myself and our children, Joseph and Molly.”

Andy Brown with Joseph, Natalie and Molly.

Before Natalie’s death Andy and Rob discussed the challenges they could take on to raise money and came up with the Mount Kilimanjaro idea.

Natalie then made them promise to complete the challenge after her death.

The duo began planning in January 2020 with the original goal of raising £8,000 to pay for a day of care at the hospice, but Covid ruined their plans three times.

So, in the meantime, they held several fundraising events, including race nights, sponsored walks and even a naked calendar.

In 2020, Rob and Andy also climbed the three highest peaks of England, Scotland and Wales.

“Natalie had a zest for life and she would have loved all the events we have been holding in her memory,” Andy said.

He added that the Kilimanjaro fundraising challenge is to thank the hospice and help other families with a loved one facing a terminal diagnosis.

“If Natalie’s death doesn’t emphasise how important it is to keep living, to have fun and help others then I don’t know what does,” he said.

“I miss her so much but I feel privileged to have shared her beautiful crazy life and will do all I can to keep living in a way she would have grinned at.”

Andy and Rob’s week-long adventure begins on January 22 and their current goal is to raise £50,000.

People can donate at www.justgiving.com.