“It was harder than I expected, great fun and I’d definitely do it again.”
That’s the verdict from FORCE supporter Tracey Frankum after her trek of a lifetime along the Great Wall of China.
Tracey has returned to Exeter armed with a wealth of stories, hundreds of photographs and more than £1,500 raised for FORCE from five days of walking on one of the world’s most iconic structures.
“It was an amazing experience,” she said. “The first day was in quite a commercialised area with the sort of scenery you’re used to seeing in pictures. It was more rural after that and our best day involved a section called ‘The Stairway to Heaven.’ It’s a lesser known part of the wall and at times we were climbing a rock face and clinging on to trees. It wasn’t what I was expecting but I loved it.”
Tracey, who funded the trip herself, was part of a group of 17 people raising money for various national and local causes on an adventure organised by Charity Challenge, the world’s leading fundraising experience operator.
“I was pleased that I didn’t get any blisters and I wasn’t the slowest, although some of the sections were very steep and challenging,” she said.
She was inspired to take on the trek for FORCE by two friends who have received significant support from our charity.
“My friend Mary Hayman is in remission from ovarian cancer. She does a lot for FORCE and her husband is a volunteer at the Support Centre so I knew about the incredible things the charity does. Then there’s the Fez Campaign!” said Tracey.
Fezmania is the brainchild of cancer patient and FORCE fanatic Martin Lynn, who has now raised nearly £20,000 in the past year from various events using the unlikely symbol of a small, conical, red hat as a focal point.
Tracey, whose husband Kevin used to play rugby with Martin, wore fez-logo T-shirts and hats on the trek and on sightseeing trips to Beijing’s Forbidden City, Temple of Heaven and Tiananmen Square to ensure she raised awareness of the campaign.
She trekked with her Exeter friend Louise Carr, who was raising money for Asthma UK and first encouraged Tracey to undertake the Oriental expedition.
“Louise reminded me that you only live once – YOLO as the youngsters say – and I didn’t want to look back wishing I’d done something like this before my hips and knees said no,” she joked.
Her family were very supportive of her efforts and Fezmania. Husband Kevin works for the Post Office and has been selling fez wristbands to his colleagues, son Ryan is just finishing a degree in biomedical science and wants to go into cancer research and daughter Abbie is about to begin her nursing studies in Bristol.
There’s apparently a saying that once you’ve walked the Great Wall, you’re a hero.
Like all of our amazing supporters, Tracey is definitely a hero to FORCE.