‘I would have probably died’

The group which climbed Slieve Donard for Northern Ireland Chest, Heart and Stroke Association. From left Kylie Hunter, Linda Harvey, Michelle Tracey Heaney, Rhonda Boyd, Stephen Gallagher, Mark Rabbett and Annette Simpson.
The group which climbed Slieve Donard for Northern Ireland Chest, Heart and Stroke Association. From left Kylie Hunter, Linda Harvey, Michelle Tracey Heaney, Rhonda Boyd, Stephen Gallagher, Mark Rabbett and Annette Simpson.
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They might not be able to move a mountain but at least they’re able to climb one.

Seven people who took part in the Waterside Neighbourhood Partnership’s (W.N.P.) ‘Fit Factor’ decided to mark the end of the project by climbing Ulster’s highest peak, Slieve Donard.

Rhonda Boyd is Health Development Worker for the W.N.P. and said whilst last weekend’s ascent was “challenging” everyone made it to the top.

“It was a great day out and the weather was perfect so we had no complaints.

“About 100 people took part in the ‘Fit Factor’ and seven of them decided to celebrate the end of the project by climbing Slieve Donard.

“There was a bit of competition on the day and some were a little faster than others but we all made it to the top safely,” said Rhonda smiling.

One of those who made the unforgiving 850 metre climb to the top was Waterside woman, Annette Simpson.

Annette said had she tried to climb Slieve Donard a year ago she would have “probably died” but explained she has been able to improve upon her fitness by availing of the Neighbourhood Health Improvement Project (N.H.I.P.) offered through W.N.P.

“If you had have said to me this time last year that I would be able to climb Slieve Donard within a year I would have thought you were off you rocker - had I tried to do this last year I would have probably died,” said Annette laughing.

“But seriously, the health and fitness courses on offer through the Waterside Neighbourhood Partnership are just brilliant.

“Not only am I getting out and about and meeting new people but I am also getting fit, staying healthy and now I can say I have climbed a mountain,” she said proudly.

Stephen Gallagher, who is also from the Waterside, first got involved with the health programmes at W.N.P. a year ago when he registered for the Waterside’s ‘Biggest Loser’.

“I’ve lost about four stone inside the last nine or ten months,” said Stephen happily.

“If it wasn’t for the hard work of Rhonda and W.N.P. I doubt I’d be in such good shape now.”

When the conversation changes to last weekend’s Slieve Donard expedition everyone points the finger at Stephen when they are asked who was the most competitive person in the group.

“Stephen basically ran up Slieve Donard. There was just no stopping him,” laughed Rhonda.

The seven would-be mountaineers also raised money for charity before setting out on their ascent of Slieve Donard.

The group decided to donate more than £600 to the North West branch of the Northern Ireland Chest, Heart and Stroke Association (NICHSA).

Brian McCluskey, North West Community Fundraiser for the NICHSA said he was delighted with the generous donation.

“The good thing about the donation is that money given to the North West branch stays in the North West.

“I think what the group did was astonishing and not only have they helped others but they have helped themselves by getting fit, staying healthy and now climbing a mountain - I got head staggers just looking at the photos,” he said.

“We have a lot of events coming up in Derry over the next few months and we would be delighted to hear from anyone interested in getting involved,” added Brian.

Ash Denard is the Stroke Family Support Coordinator for the NICHSA.

Ash said she takes great delight in seeing people get fit and healthy and commended the group for climbing the mountain.

“Credit really has to go this group. What they have done is excellent. The money they have raised will help local people and they helped themselves by getting themselves in the shape to climb a mountain - I applaud them.”

For more information on the Waterside Neighbourhood Partnership visit its www.facebook.com/pages/Waterside-Neighbourhood-Partnership or telephone: 028 7134 2959.

To speak to anyone at the North West branch of the NICHSA telephone 028 7137 7222.