Eileen Alcock, a 78 year old who lives at Clarence Park Retirement Village in Malvern, will take part in the supported challenge from Tuesday 7 to Thursday 9 May in aid of Polymyalgia Rheumatica (PMR) and Giant Cell Arteritis (GCA).
Eileen suffers from both conditions with the symptoms including serve pain, headaches, stiffness and potential sight loss.
Her target is to raise £5000 for PMRGCAuk, the charity aimed at supporting sufferers of Polymyalgia Rheumatica and Giant Cell Arteritis; to date she has raised more than £1300.
Along with her husband, Ken, Eileen will paddle 30 miles along the Birmingham to Worcester canal, which will include 56 locks and 5 tunnels. The canal has one of the largest lock flights in Europe, the 30 Tardebigge Locks that climb around 230 feet over 3 miles.
Eileen said : “We are both very excited about this challenge. Planning has included walking along sections of the canal, that neither of us know very well, and working out where to stay and where to store the canoe overnight.”
One of the tunnels they will be navigating is 1.5 miles long, too long to canoe through and over 3 miles to walk over to the other side. But this hasn’t deterred Eileen. The couple have hired a narrowboat to take them and their canoe through the tunnel and invited friends and neighbours to spend the day with them.
Jennie Collins, Village Manager at Clarence Park Retirement Village said : “We are so proud and humbled by Eileen’s spirit and determination. Despite her debilitating condition, she is a regular volunteer on the reception desk and in the gardens of Clarence Park; she also runs a Tai Chi class for her fellow residents.
“Although the fundraising is vital to maintain the charity’s work, more importantly for Eileen, she wishes to raise awareness of this misunderstood condition. We wish both her and Ken all the very best with this incredible venture.”
Other awareness raising activities have included a dress up day for residents at the village where Eileen and Ken live as well as a dress down day for our employees; residents raised more than £340 and Fortis Living staff £132.47.
Over the past 30 years, Eileen and Ken have paddled extensively on rivers and lakes in England, Wales and Northern Ireland, as well as along the Whanganui in New Zealand.
During the last 10 years, they have enjoyed canoe camping as members of the Open Canoe Association, including trips to Belgium and Sweden.
Eileen concluded : “My condition is little known and understood both by the general public and in medical circles. Raising funds as well as raising hope amongst sufferers are both very close to my heart and I will continue to do as much as I can to help make positive changes where I can.”