A NUMBER of Borders residents will walk several miles barefoot as part of a charity relay this month.
The challenge is inspired by Major Chris Brannigan, who completed the barefoot walk from Land’s End to Edinburgh in 30 days over the summer to raise money for research into Cornelia de Lange Syndrome, a genetic disorder.
Mr Brannigan’s eight-year-old daughter, Hasti, was diagnosed with the condition in 2018, for which there is no treatment currently available.
Earlston resident Mark Wands, 57, will take on leg 118 – between Earlston and Lauder – of the 122-leg event, which aims to raise money to fund pioneering research into treatments for CdLS.
Mr Wands, a retired police officer, signed up for the relay on the last day after his step-daughter, who is walking the last leg in England, made him aware of the barefoot challenge.
“If anyone asks me to do anything I end up doing it,” said Mr Wands. “It’s a 10-mile walk so I’ll be able to do it. It is just about hardening the feet up a bit, a few 100 yards first and then stepping it up.”
Any relay slots not filled will be completed by Mr Brannigan, which contributed to Mr Wands decision to get involved.
“I just thought we can’t be having that,” said Mr Wands, one of 125 volunteers who signed up for the fundraiser.
The first leg started on September 26, with each participant receiving an email when the relay baton gets to within five legs of their assigned slot.
Mr Wands, who now volunteers as a driver for the Royal Voluntary Service and the British Red Cross, expects to complete his leg on November 28.
He will be joined on the walk by his friend for some moral support, although he is hoping his pal’s skills with a curling brush can also help protect his feet from a winter problem.
“The only problem will be if they grit the roads,” joked Mr Wands. “I have got someone doing the walk with me and he does curling so hopefully we’ll be okay.”
Other legs in the Borders are: Camptown to Jedburgh; Jedburgh to St Boswells; St Boswells to Earlston and Lauder to Fala Village.
Samm Murray will complete the journey from Camptown to Jedburgh, leg 115, and said: “I met Chris on his journey and he was so inspirational. I watched his journey and followed his story and thought if I can help this family and others with children with rare disease, I will.
“They really shouldn’t have to fight the way Chris’ family have had to fight for everything for Hasti.”
Debs Hamilton, who will be taking on leg 119, from Lauder to Fala Village, said: “I followed Chris’ 700-mile journey and was moved by the lengths he went to for his beautiful little girl.
“I feel honoured to be part of the relay, although apprehensive of the terrain and weather in late November.”
Each participant in the relay will carry Hasti’s favourite soft toy, Obama the Llama, as the baton.
All money raised will go to the Hope for Hasti charity, which was started to raise funds for research and clinical trials into a gene therapy treatment.
Mr Brannigan’s 700-mile barefoot walk raised £500,000, with an overall target for the charity set at £2.5 million.
He described the support as “incredible”, adding that “every penny is vital” in the search for a treatment.
“I’m incredibly grateful to the volunteers for giving up their time and having such courage to face this challenge – it’s certainly not easy,” said Mr Brannigan. “They are doing this for my little girl and for other children like her. They are heroes.”