Elaine’s fundraising to peak with ambitious Kilimanjaro challenge

Rhona Morrison, Helen Haugh and Elaine Whellans preparing to climb Mount Kilimanjaro
Rhona Morrison, Helen Haugh and Elaine Whellans preparing to climb Mount Kilimanjaro

CHRISTMAS 2005 brought a bombshell for the Whellans family from Duns. While others were looking ahead to the new year, they were rocked with the news that 10 year old son Aaron had leukaemia.

What followed was a tough four years as Aaron had intensive treatment and was in and out of the Sick Kids Hospital in Edinburgh, meaning that mum Elaine, dad Adam and sister Jade were often away from their home in Duns as they wanted to be by his bedside.

Fortunately just as December 28 2005 is a date that will forever be etched in the Whellans’ memories, so is March 16 2009 for a very different reason as that is the day when Aaron ended his chemotherapy and was effectively given the all clear.

Now 17, Aaron is able to enjoy life just like any teenager and Elaine is wanting to give some back to the charities that supported her family through the hard times by climbing Mount Kilimanjaro in October next year.

Elaine, who works in the intensive care unit in the Borders General Hospital, will follow in the footsteps of the likes of Cheryl Cole and Chris Moyles who completed the trek in aid of Comic Relief a few years ago and will be joined by colleagues Helen Haugh from Eyemouth and Rhona Morrison from Galashiels and a group of other fundraisers from Edinburgh, including the woman who persuaded her to give the trek a go, Teenage Cancer Trust’s Lynne McNicoll.

Elaine first met Lynne shortly after Aaron’s diagnosis in 2005 and she quickly became a firm source of support and a dear family friend. At the time Lynne was approaching her 50th birthday and deciding she wanting to do something different to mark the milestone, began fundraising.

Not taking her challenge lightly, Lynne has since gone on to raise £750,000 for children with cancer and having raised £10,000 herself for CLIC Saregeant and the Teenage Cancer Trust whilst Aaron was ill, Elaine was inspired to jump back on the fundraising bandwagon in style.

“My kids are right behind me wanting to do the trek although they do think I’m mad!” Elaine told ‘The Berwickshire News’.

“I was having coffee with Lynne when she first put the idea to me and I thought to myself if I don’t do it now I never will.

“I’m quite an outdoorsy kind of person and I’d like to think I’d be fit enough to do the trek.

“Doing it as a big group is bound to be a massive help as is the fact that there are other parents in the group who have been in exactly the same position as me when their children were ill.”

Elaine admitted although she had always been aware of charities like the Teenage Cancer Trust it wasn’t until Aaron was in hospital and she and her family needed a support network that she realised their full value.

“Obviously like anyone else I tried to do my bit for charity when I could but after Aaron was diagnosed and we had to do a lot of travelling and running around we relied on them so much.

“We were in the Sick Kids Hospital over Christmas and new year and you could imagine what a miserable time that was for us but thanks to Lynne, who goes out and gets all of the food and drink herself, families can now sit down and have Christmas dinner together.

“I’m absolutely staggered by all of the work she does. She’s currently raising money for a new house for sick children and their families. When Aaron was in hospital we couldn’t have managed without the house we were able to use. At one point he was in Sick Kids for two months solid but having the house meant that we didn’t have to keep travelling up and down all the time and we could make food in the house to take into Aaron.”

Thankfully for Elaine the days of travelling up and down to Edinburgh are over but over the next year she’s going to be experiencing ups and downs of a different kind as she gets stuck into her Kilimanjaro training.

“I’m walking loads at the moment, doing about seven or eight miles with the dog every day,” she continued. “People have remarked that I’ve got the most walked in Duns- he’ll be fit as fiddle by the time I do the trek!

“My biggest fear is going to be the difference in altitude. With the route we’re going to follow it should take us six days to get to the summit and I can’t begin to imagine how I feel when we get there!”

Elaine has set herself a fundraising goal of £10,000 and has so far raised £900 thanks to her homemade tablet proving a big hit.

She plans to set up a Just Giving page at the start of next year and has a number of fundraising events planned including a dance in October. If you want to sponsor her in the meantime email emwhells@hotmail.co.uk.