An auntie taking on a gruelling 12-day charity challenge has shared the inspiring story of her niece who battled leukaemia twice as a young girl. 

Camilla Laing, from Ribchester, is leading a team of five on a hike, cycle and canoe from the Lake District to the Seven Estuary.

The challenge is to raise money for children’s hospital, Noah’s Ark, which supports children who need specialist and often life saving equipment.

After watching her 17-year-old niece suffer leukaemia twice throughout 2010 and 2015, Camilla started planning her MAD – Make A Difference challenge three years ago.

Lancashire Telegraph: MAD Challenge 2023 team mascot, Eko the Rhodesian RidgebackMAD Challenge 2023 team mascot, Eko the Rhodesian Ridgeback (Image: MAD Challenge)

Camilla was inspired by the cancer care she witnessed for her niece in London, as well as her own experience with breast cancer in 2010.

She said: “I’ve seen how challenging it is for children going through illnesses like cancer. We hope to raise as much money as possible to help Noah’s Ark continue to help families going through these medical crises”.

Camilla met Kath Fisher from Noah’s Ark Charity and discovered that her 10-year-old daughter, Evie has been a lifetime patient at the hospital.

She was born with a rare kidney disorder and has had nine operations to date.

Thanks to the medical care given to Evie at Noah’s Ark Children's Hospital she is now a budding junior rugby player.

Kath’s husband, Geraint Fisher, serving Royal Engineer, is one of the MAD challenge team members.

He said: “We are so grateful for all the care Evie has received, the challenge was an opportunity to help continue the great work done by the hospital for other kids in the future.”

Explaining the idea behind the challenge, Camilla said: "It takes a lot of motivation and support from each other to do this, because none of us are athletes.

"I wanted to get a group of normal people to come together and do something amazing and to inspire other people."

Taking on a set of five to six hour hikes a day, the MAD team summit Skiddaw, Scafell, Helvellyn and Scafell Pike in four days.

They will then take four days to cycle 226 miles from Kendal to Hay on Wye, Herefordshire before embarking on 100 mile canoe challenge down the river Wye, finishing up by navigating the tidal waters of the Severn Estuary.

On top of the physical challenge the team will be camping for most of the 12-day expedition.

Sarah Peak, another one of the team members, is a veterinary nurse and challenge veterinary expert for the team’s mascot Eko the Rhodesian Ridgeback.

She said: “Even for an athlete this is a punishing 12 days for the body, so it’s particularly physically demanding for our teams as none of us are athletes! 

“We’ve been training for 12 months and are really looking forward to the challenge and making a difference to the charity.”

Carrie Downes is a single mum and psychology teacher at a school for children with special needs.

She is taking part in the challenge to inspire her children and pupils that they can achieve anything.

The support team include Camilla’s partner Rowan Dewhurst and Stuart Duggan, a serving Royal Marine Commando, who will be taking care of the logistics of the challenge.

The challenge will begin on Sunday September 3. To support the cause and donate, visit the JustGiving crowdfunding page here.