Canoe grans cheered at 60-mile finish line.
Byline: Mike Malyon Nuneaton reporter firstname.lastname@example.org
THERE were loud cheers from the towpath as Julia Plummer and Lorraine Robinson completed their "crazy canal challenge."
A group of family and friends - including grandchildren - were on hand to welcome the pair across the finish line after an exhausting, fourday, 60-mile journey by canoe.
They paddled from Nuneaton to Northampton to highlight a rare condition, Gitelman Syndrome, which claimed the life of Julia's 28-year-old daughter Alyson nine years ago.
"Doctors who had been dealing with her, along with the vast majority of the medical personnel, knew nothing about the disease. Those who bothered to look it up were informed it was a benign condition, so funding is desperately needed to help with much-needed research," said Julia."
Alyson worked as an occupational therapist with brain injury patients at St Andrew's Hospital in Northampton and following her tragic death, her parents put forward a Memorial Award to be given annually to a nominated staff member.
Earlier this year, Julia came up with the idea of a sponsored canal trip - from Alyson's home town to where she had gone to live and work - as a way of raising funds towards the award and also increasing awareness about Gitelman Syndrome.
"It was all set in motion when my good friend Lorraine agreed to join me," said Julia.
"We were both complete canoe novices and spent several months in training. The trip itself was quite tiring but we did not hit any problems - and there was a great sense of achievement at the end, because we had done it for Alyson."
The two women, who are both aged in their mid-50s and live in Nuneaton, used a Canadian-style canoe - named Alyspirit - and paddled with one oar each along a winding course, via Brinklow, Newbold, Rugby and Gayton, which included 35 locks and two long tunnels.
They were accompanied in a narrowboat by their mentor and coach, former GB canoeist Bryant Stage, while husbands Kevin Plummer and Phil Robinson followed along on bikes from the towpath.
Julia and Lorraine were given a civic send-off from Nuneaton by mayor and mayoress Brian and Di Hawkes and arrived at Northampton in time for the annual Alyson Plummer Memorial Award ceremony.
"We are absolutely delighted how everything went according to plan, but it is something we could not have done without the support of so many people, including Bryant and our family and friends," said Julia.
"The response from people on the canal as we passed by was fantastic and from sponsorship and donations it looks as though we have beaten our target of PS2,000, which is just great."
Mayor and mayoress | Brian and Di Hawkes give canoe pair Julia Plummer ANDLLORRAINE Robinson a civic send off on the canal at Coton, Nuneaton, and (right) the pair celebrate at the finish