Taking on the Sahara for Help for Heroes

Kirsty Lownds, Sahara charity walker
Kirsty Lownds, Sahara charity walker

In May 2012, Buxton soldier Anthony Lownds was seriously injured while serving in Afghanistan.

His family feared the worst after hearing he had been injured by an IED (improvised explosive device) and didn’t know what to expect when he arrived at the Queen Elizabeth Hospital in Birmingham for treatment.

Anthony’s right hand was severely damaged in the blast and has since been reconstructed twice, he lost much of the muscle on his left leg and his hearing has been affected. He spent months in hospital and undergoing rehabilitation at Headley Court.

But thankfully, he is alive - unlike so many others.

Since the day he was injured, one charity has been there to support his family.

Help for Heroes proved a tower of strength for his family, including mum Jayne and sister Kirsty, during the days, weeks and months they spent at Anthony’s bedside and indeed afterwards.

And now to show the family’s gratitude for all the support they have received, Kirsty, of Manchester Road, Buxton,is preparing for a gruelling challenge to raise money for the charity.

Next month, she will leave the High Peak behind and set off on a ten-day trek through the Sahara desert as part of a fundraising group known as the Band of Sisters - family members of injured servicemen and women who have received support from Help For Heroes.

Kirsty, 22, explained: “You don’t really know what to do when someone tells you your brother has been blown up. I was out for a jog and just broke down in the middle of the road.

“We were even told he might not be well enough to be brought back to England for at least 72 hours but luckily he was brought back the next day.

“He was in hospital a long time, having numerous operations.

“Help for Heroes have done a lot for our family.

“When Anthony was in hospital we got such great support from them. Even when he returned home they were emailing to check everyone was okay.”

She added: “The Band of Sisters is a group of family members of injured soldiers, sisters, aunties, mums, girlfriends and cousins and they come together for different fundraising events.

“I was asked if I wanted to get involved in the Sahara event and was a bit dubious at first but I really wanted to do something for the charity so I signed up.”

Kirsty will set off for the trek on November 13, spending her first day in Morocco before trekking 100km across the desert with around 30 other people.

She will also be climbing the highest sand dune in the area - Chigaga.

And the High Peak’s rugged landscape has been helping her prepare for the challenge.

“We live in a really hilly area so I’ve been going on long walks carrying my bag, but the one thing I can’t prepare for is the heat.

“I worked in a kitchen during the Buxton Festival in 40 degree heat and that was bad enough.”

She added: “I’m getting nervous now. It is quite daunting.”

Kirsty is hoping to raise around £2,500 for Help For Heroes through the charity trek.

To sponsor her, visit www.bmycharity.com/kirstyssaharatrek. Sponsor forms are also available from the Queen’s Head, the Old Hall Hotel and some local shops.