11-year-old takes on mountain mission for dementia research in honour of grandad

03 April 2018

A Wakefield schoolgirl whose ambition is to win an Olympic gold medal in climbing will take on the Yorkshire Three Peaks Challenge to raise money for dementia research in honour of her grandfather who has Alzheimer’s disease.

Thea Speight wall climbing

Thea Speight wall climbing

Thea Speight, 11, and her father Damien will attempt to climb Pen-y-ghent, Whernside and Ingleborough in under 12 hours this weekend to raise money for Alzheimer’s Research UK.

The Wakefield Girls High School Junior School pupil was inspired to take on the challenge, which covers 24 miles and 5,200ft of ascent, for the UK’s leading dementia research charity as her grandfather, her dad’s father, was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease last year.

Damien, 48, said:

“When we told Thea her grandad has Alzheimer’s she struggled to accept that there isn’t something to fix him. Grandad can’t just go to a doctor, get a pill and get better. She wanted to do something to help, so we suggested the best thing she could do is to raise money for research that will find a cure so other people won’t go through the same thing.

“We were very open with the kids about their grandad’s Alzheimer’s. We’ve explained to them that we just have to love grandad for being grandad.

“They don’t mind having the same conversation with him five times and are happy to just sit and laugh with him.”

Thea has written a poem for her fundraising page to inspire people to donate. It reads:

“One day Grandads won’t need to be sad
Forgetting the fun times that we had
With this money that we are raising
Doctors will find things truly amazing
Then on one historic day
Grandads’ memories will be here to stay”

Thea enjoys climbing at the Leeds Wall and with the sport included for the first time in the Olympic Games in Tokyo in 2020, she has her eye on winning a gold medal.

Damien said:

“Thea’s dream is to become a climber and she wants to win an Olympic gold medal. She likes wall climbing and is pretty good at it.

“She’s never done anything as tough as the Three Peaks Challenge before. She knows how far it is but she wanted to set herself a really tough challenge.

“She’s super fit. She plays hockey for her school and Wakefield Hockey Club.

“For training we headed up to Edinburgh and climbed Arthur’s Seat to see what she was like on a steep hill using walking poles. She had no problems and just shot up the hill.”

Thea Speight at Arthurs Seat

Thea Speight at Arthurs Seat

Thea and her dad are planning to do the challenge on Sunday but may do it on Friday or Saturday instead depending on the weather.

Thea has so far raised around £1,250, smashing her £1,000 target. The total includes £106 raised from a cake sale held by Thea and her sister Martha, 8, at their school.

To sponsor Thea go to www.justgiving.com/fundraising/Damien-Speight

Claire Priestwood, Alzheimer’s Research UK Regional Fundraising Officer for the North East, said:

“We are in awe of Thea for taking on this challenge. She will make her grandad very proud.

“The vital funds raised by her will power world-class dementia research projects and help bring an end to the fear, harm and heartbreak of dementia.”

For further information about Alzheimer’s Research UK, or to find out more about fundraising for the charity, call 0300 111 5555 or visit www.alzheimersresearchuk.org