They often say ‘It’s harder to go down a hill than up, but the best view is from the top’.
And that was certainly the case for passionate Youth Zone supporter, Peter Topping, who along with a number of other charity fundraisers, led by Nick Hopkinson MBE, fought through both the mental and physical battles that come with an epic week-long climb of Mount Kilimanjaro – all in aid of our young people’s future.
Peter owns, along with his brother Guy (Chairman of Preston Youth Zone), the Barton Grange Group which is a family run business comprising The Barton Grange Hotel, established in 1950, a custom built destination Garden Centre north of Preston, a Landscape contracting business and a number of wholesale nurseries.
So how did a businessman from Preston get involved in Youth Zones?
OnSide Youth Zone’s Jamie Allen caught up with Peter to find out.
Peter revealed all: “My brother Guy ran our Garden Centre in Bolton and locally met Jerry Glover who headed up Bolton Lads and Girls Club – it all stemmed from there. He then introduced me to the project and we both saw what a fantastic charity it was and the work that went on. We knew that every penny given to this charity would go to the right place.”
That reassurance as well as the ‘gentle reminder’ from renowned fundraiser Nick Hopkinson MBE who has completed the climbing feat for the last six years, drove Peter to the challenge.
“Hoppy (Nick Hopkinson) has completed six trips up Kilimanjaro for Youth Zones and so it came to our attention. My wife Carole and I enjoy walking so we thought it would be a good challenge and we were joined by our sister in law Carol (Guy’s wife), John and Sue Gornall and Sara Raijah, all supporting Preston Youth Zone, whilst others were climbing in aid of other OnSide Youth Zones. We agreed to go last summer and our walking and cycling training started just after Christmas before the week pursuit kicked-off in March.”
After months of training, the challenge became a reality as did the aches, pains and suffering that accompanies such a test.
One of those obstacles was altitude sickness, but as Peter reveals, this only really became an issue on the push for the summit..
“We didn’t find the altitude too bad. We did get a few stomach issues and headaches on the second day, but after taking the sickness pills they passed pretty swiftly. But as we approached the summit the lack of oxygen made us feel very tired – we all just wanted to lie in the snow and go to sleep but of course the safety experts wouldn’t let us do that!
“We had six nights in the tent camping and that was the worst part for me especially – I just couldn’t get comfortable and didn’t get much sleep. One thing is for sure, I am never going camping again!”
Were there any points in the trip when failure was an option? Peter continued:
“Just before reaching the summit we had been awake for 24 hours and on the move for 15 of those. The last hour, trying to make it to the top through the thin air and six inches of snow, was the biggest challenge for us all. I must say however, when we finally made it to the summit, it was spectacular- snow covered with clear blue skies, bright sunshine but -20 degrees!”
In total, there were people representing four of OnSide’s network of current and future Youth Zones – Warrington, Bolton, Oldham and Preston and that was something Peter was proud to be a part of.
“It was great to take part in the challenge with others who know about the Youth Zone culture. They are all so passionate about helping young people. It’s a powerful network when we unite.”
Was it the hardest thing Peter has ever done?
“It’s certainly one of the toughest things I have done – having said that I am no superman – it’s certainly achievable. The problem is, there are so many things going around your head -the camping and the food, which at first seemed great, but you soon get ‘sick’ of it!”
The most important outcome, more than the team physically reaching the summit was of course the money raised for young people. The team followed their success with a dinner and auction at Barton Grange Garden Centre and the total raised now stands at £34,000!
Peter’s enthusiasm, passion and commitment for the cause is evident for all to see.
“You do wonder how kids are going to get through in the future if we don’t invest in them. If we could get more Youth Zones across the country it will benefit them so much. If we can get 20 of these places, that will be 60,000 young people – but we want to change the lives of so many kids. Once you have been and seen a Youth Zone in the flesh, you can see the benefit they have on young people’s lives.”
My final question and probably the most common question following an expedition like this was; would you ever do a challenge like this again?
With a wry smile; a smile that spoke of relief; relief that the challenge had been a success and the satisfactory realisation that young people have and will benefit from the feat, Peter grinned:
“I would rather just give the young people some more money!”
“No, in all seriousness, I probably wouldn’t do it again, mainly because once it’s done, it’s done.”
Time for the next challenge then, Peter!
A big well done to the following who all took part in the challenge:
Nick Hopkinson, Stephen McCarthy, Ben Ingham, April Pilling, Leon Crosby, Christopher Wise, Adam Corbally, Caroline Hitchen, Sara Rajiah, Carol Topping, Andrew Making, Francis Rothwell, Susan Gornall, John Gornall, Carole Topping, Peter (Edward) Topping, Sean Cafferty.
Next year’s walk aims to raise at least £25k for Warrington Youth Club. £25k will pay for 25 volunteer mentors who will work with 25 vulnerable young people for at least a year helping them to turn their lives around and giving them a stable adult who can always be there for them. If you want to take part in the next Kilimanjaro climbing challenge from 11-20th March 2016, please register your interest by emailing Nick Hopkinson on: firstname.lastname@example.org