Three friends are donning ‘ugly shoes’ to walk 15 miles and cross 17 bridges across London’s River Thames tomorrow to raise charity cash.
Charlotte Sjoberg, 34, from north Wiltshire, 39-year-old Hari Miller from Bristol and Clare Needham, 34, of Wallingford in Oxfordshire will put their best trainer-clad foot forward to raise disability access awareness and raise money for Get a Life!
The foundation provides practical and emotional support for those who have experienced a life-altering illness or injury.
It was set up by former Virgin air hostess, professional dancer and mutual friend Karen Reader whose career was tragically cut short when she was in a car accident which left her confined to a wheelchair at just 23.
Head of Media Relations at TSB Charlotte explained that the walk would give them the chance to take in London’s sights and see how accessible it is for disabled commuters.
— Charlotte Sjöberg (@1981CSS) August 20, 2015
She said: “I’m a country lass at heart. All three of us have worked in London, but we don’t get to enjoy the beauty of London when commuting.
“When I am in London with work I try to walk everywhere – people think I’m crazy!
“London is absolutely beautiful if you give yourself enough time.”
The walk will take in a number of iconic city scenes along the 15-mile route including 17 bridges across London’s River Thames before winding up in Putney – where Karen used to live.
She said: “Karen lived in London a long time, and since her accident it became crystal clear how difficult it is to get around London in her chair.
“Black cabs are great but they have to get the ramp in and out and tubes are a complete no-no.”
Karen uses a chair, dubbed The Beast, and two sticks to get around the house, but Charlotte explained that this wasn’t the path Karen and her husband Gary planned out.
— Get A Life Charity (@GetALifeCharity) September 20, 2012
Charlotte said: “They now have a two-year-old daughter who has just started dance classes, I know Karen wishes she could be teaching her instead of watching someone else do it.
“When you talk to her you find out that once you’ve left hospital and physio no-one helps you understand or grieve for what your life might have been like.
“That’s why the work of Get A Life is so important.”
Karen Reader, founder of Get a Life! Foundation, said: “As a charity very much in its infancy, we are so grateful for the efforts of these wonderful ladies to help us move forward in our quest to improve the emotional support for individuals who become disabled and their families.
— Charlotte Sjöberg (@1981CSS) July 11, 2015
“My husband and I set up Get a Life! Foundation after our own experience following my life-changing injury.
“We felt there was little support to help us adjust emotionally, both as individuals and in our relationship.”
Karen’s husband Garry recalled his memories of their experience following Karen’s accident, describing it as an ‘exhausting’ time.
He said: “When Karen’s injuries started to look like they may have a long-term impact on our lives we had to start thinking about the practicalities of adaptations, blue badges, benefits and other factors to try and make our lives a little easier.
“There was so much to think about and this was all at the same time as I was trying to support us both financially as Karen was unable to work.
“We were a mere six months into our relationship when Karen’s accident took place so the change was immense.
“I felt overwhelmed by the fact our lives were changing so much, but I spent the little time I did have trying to research all of this information whilst feeling sleep deprived and exhausted as I tried to care for her and support her in the best way I could.
“I felt overwhelmed by the fact our lives were changing so much.”
“There is some practical information available through government websites and other fantastic resources, but Karen had a car accident which through complications left her with a rare condition and we were subsequently left feeling like we fell through the gaps.
“Having a loved one become disabled through illness or injury, or becoming disabled yourself is an incredibly challenging time.
“We believe the process should be made as easy as possible by providing people with not only practical advice, but also much needed emotional advice and resources to help individuals and their relationships with their loved ones through this process.”
You can donate here https://mydonate.bt.com/fundraisers/17bridges
For more information about Get A Life! visit www.getalifecharity.org
You can follow the walkers on Twitter using the hashtag #abridgetoofar