1000 miles for hope

A HITCHIN based businessman whose wife was diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis (MS) almost 20 years ago, has nearly reached his target of walking 1000 miles in a year, to raise money for research into the condition.

Len Williamson and his friend Robert Kyprainou have so far raised more than �50,000 from their 1000 Miles 4 Hope mission, and hope to reach their target of �100,000 by the end of the year. They have just passed the 900 mile mark, and will complete the distance by the end of the month.

Len hatched the idea to walk the milestone when Robert mentioned he wanted a challenge once he retired. And despite initially being wary of the suggestion, Robert soon warmed to the prospect and the pair began planning their challenge before starting their first walk in January.

The money they raise will go directly to a research program run by Professor Robin Franklin at Cambridge University.

“Karen turned round to me and said that the horrible thing was there was no hope,” said Len.

“I asked what would give hope, and she mentioned the research that’s happening at Cambridge.”

Len and Robert have completed a number of walks all across the country, including the London Loop, Hadrian’s Wall and Offa’s Dyke.

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And one of their toughest challenges was the 200-mile Coast to Coast walk, taking two weeks to complete.

“It’s been one of the hardest things that we’ve ever done,” said Len.

“We’re not walkers, and the longest walk Robert had done before we started this was about five miles.

“But we’ve met some fantastic people along the way, and it’s been a great experience.”

Len and Robert have dedicated some of their walks to individuals affected by MS, including Sam Blyth who was diagnosed with MS when he was just five and consequently went blind.

They will complete their 1000 miles in Cambridge, meeting Professor Franklin at the research centre. Family and friends will join them for the last few miles of their walk.

“They are my heroes,” said Karen, of her husband and Robert. “They have done some gruelling walks and I’m immensely proud of them.

“On the walk into Cambridge we hope to get a crowd to walk together the last five miles or so, and I hope to be able to do the last few miles with them.”

As well as the walks, a number of events have been laid on to raise money for the cause including a BBQ and a pub evening, where people were treated to drink, food and socialising. Between them, these events raised more than �1600.

The campaign will be capped off with a fundraising dinner at the House of Commons in November, where Karen, Len and Robert hope to secure more donations to their cause. Julia Bradbury of BBC Coast to Coast fame will be at the event as the guest speaker.

To donate money to the cause, Comet readers can visit www.justgiving.com/1000miles4hope.