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Shetland Lives / Anita aims to make it three in a row with next fundraising challenge

ONE of Shetland’s most prolific fundraisers is aiming to launch her third major charity campaign next year (in 2022) with her eyes and feet set on new heights in the Himalayas, writes Peter Johnson.

Anita Rose Georgeson smashed her fundraising targets in 2018 with a climb to the top of Kilimanjaro for local charity Mind Your Head. She repeated the feat raising cash for a Tovertafel gadget for the elderly folk in Edward Thomason & Taing support services this year with events culminating in her running a full marathon from Sumburgh to Lerwick.

According to Anita, she loved it so much she’s hoping to reach a big target again sometime in the future. She will be on the charitable trail again in 2021, in what will hopefully be a post-Covid world.

She said: “I absolutely love fundraising, making things interesting and fun to do raising money. It’s no that difficult when you have great people wanting to join in doing stuff.”

The Lerwick care worker also managed to squeeze in a ‘tough mudder’ as part of a team of 25 taking part in the Dumfries-based event in 2019 to raise money for an MRI scanner at the Gilbert Bain.

Each participant was tasked with raising £500 as well as taking part in the gruelling yet fun event.

“It was a bit insane but great fun – I’m so glad I did it,” said Anita.

Her dormant artistic talents were reinvigorated when she started painting stones to raise money for the Tovertafel for ET & Taing. That continued for her latest fundraising drive which saw her painting almost 300 poppy stones, initially to pay for decorative metal poppies for the residents of ET House, with the extra funds raised going to the Poppy Appeal.

Anita’s first dip into fundraising was a couch to 10k in 2015.

She said: “I never run before but took it on to run with my daughter who at the time was at Edinburgh University. If she could do it I certainly could!

“As I was working at Montfield Support services at the time I wanted to raise money for the home which required an ice machine amongst other home comforts. Surprisingly I raised over £500. I wis well chuffed.”

In 2016 she decided to set a higher challenge and booked herself to do the half marathon, again with daughter Hannah, in Edinburgh, this time raising around £800 for Macmillan Cancer.

The following year of fundraising zeal was triggered after her life took a dark turn owing to a period of personal turmoil that led to serious anxieties which turned life upside down.

Anita said: “It changed my life and tried to change me but I wasn’t going tae let that happen!

“I was off work for six months. It could have gone either way. I could have stayed down where I was at, but I decided to get myself on my feet and do something positive out of something negative and I thought, because it was mental health that had struck me, I decided to then do something for mental health and I decided to raise some money for Mind Your Head.”

She had always enjoyed walking and had done the West Highland Way and climbed Ben Nevis with her sister-in-law Karen Coutts and twin nieces Carrie and Louise. That was a precursor to her much more demanding Kilimanjaro climb.

“I was actually off on the sick, at that time still, when I set off to do it. It was coming back from that Ben Nevis trip that I decided to go a step farther.

“I’d read about Tanzania before and Kilimanjaro and it was that I had thought about how wonderful it would be to climb Kilimanjaro, so when I came back from Ben Nevis, I looked into how to go about doing this, and wanted to do it for charity.

“It was all in the same day, really, from making my mind up and I phoned up about it and paid the deposit and booked it and from there on I was on a mission to raise, initially, £10,000.

“I spoke to Mind Your Head and asked them if it would be OK to do that and they were delighted.”

Anita’s Mind Your Head campaign also included various music nights and charity meals, with the Kilimanjaro climb itself the pinnacle. In the end her £10,000 target was smashed by over £7,000.

Anita still has her ‘head in the clouds’ after Kilimanjaro

“It was a fabulous year. It was relatively easy to raise the £17,000. The Shetland community is so giving. Everybody is so generous. It was overwhelming, the support that the community gave.”

This year she wanted to take on another trek – namely, Tour du Mont Blanc. She wanted to do something to give to the folk in Edward Thomason and Taing Hous.

She said: “I spoke to my boss about it and we came up with the dream of raising money for the Tovertafel project but it was greatly hindered by Covic-19 putting the kybosh on money-spinning social events.

“My trek got cancelled so I then set to do a local challenge running a marathon.”

The fundraising was difficult to start with, but locally based Scottish Sea Farms stepped in with a “whopping” £5,000 donation and the Lerwick Community Council came good with another £3,000. In the end her £10,000 target was once more smashed by over £7,000.

Anita said: “It was four years since I had done any running at all. I had been reasonably fit doing hikes, but I thought that would be the challenge, doing a full marathon.

“It would be another thing I would like to have achieved. So, I set up to run from Sumburgh to Lerwick and try and raise the funds somehow.”

Anita made good use of social media, including a Just Giving page, to help raise the funds.

She added: “There was a lady, Margaret Goodlad, had been making face masks and she approached me and said that she would be more than happy to make some face masks and donate money to my charity. She raised an amazing £1,000 making face masks, which was just something else.”

A selection of Anita’s painted beach pebbles. Photo: Peter Johnson

That also prompted Anita to think of ways she could raise more cash herself and she hit upon the idea of painting beach pebbles.

“It was just a huge hit because I rattled out a few pebbles and put it on Facebook for anybody that was interested and, overwhelmingly, in a day, I sold them all and made £500.

“Everybody was loving them and wanting more, so I carried on painting, and the same thing happened again. I just cleared my picnic bench, for a second time, and still people were wanting more.

“So, I kept on going with it. It was about £2,300 I made with painting pebbles, which really bumped everything up a good bit more.”

In typical fashion, if Anita sees a goal being achieved “easily” she will then set the bar higher for herself.

Though her planned seven-day hike around Mont Blanc this summer that would have taken her through the spectacular Alpine scenery of France, Switzerland and Italy was spiked by the pandemic, she hopes to undertake the hike next summer, if all goes well.

But she hopes to top that with another fundraising venture in the “roof of the world” – the Himalayas – in 2022.

“None of us is getting any younger, but I have set on every year something that is going to be a challenge,” said Anita.

“I get a real rush out of doing a challenge. If you put your mind to anything in life you can achieve it. There is nothing that anybody cannot do. If you are determined, and I am a very determined person, pretty much everything I have put my mind to I have managed to achieve.

“I would probably want to do a fundraiser for the Himalayas again, because I just think three is a good number, and because I have raised quite a lot of money twice, all going well in a couple of years time, we will have a bit more control over the world again, and I will be able to organize more events for fundraising and some fun stuff again to enjoy with my family and friends and the community.

“I’d be wanting to set me sights pretty high again and I’d be disappointed if I did not raise £17,000 for a third time,” said Anita with a chuckle.

Anita studied art at school with teachers Martin Emslie, Jim Kerr and Forbes Hogg and met her friend Amy Cheyne in art class. She carried on with her artwork after leaving school and her house in Sandveien was full of artworks and murals and was very popular with local children.

She first sold some of her work in the Spinning Wheel on Commercial Street, doing sketches in the shop and selling them to tourists.

“I loved art at that time and did a lot of drawing. As a young lass I was quite pleased with myself that these tourists were buying these Shetland sketches.”

Her first exhibition was downstairs in the Queens Hotel downstairs bar. The exhibition of “surreal, crazy stuff” sold out and Anita had two further exhibitions at the old museum plus various Up Helly Aa bill heads.

But as time went on, her time for art waned. “Like everything else I just kind of lost it. It went from me. Life got busier and I just did not have time, and it became a chore to do it.”

Anita was brought up in Upper Sound, which in those days was undeveloped and separated from the town by hay fields.

“I was very much a country lass,” she said. She also spent a lot of time visiting her mother and father’s homeland of Walls where her grandparents lived.

With her renewed love for artwork and a shed/studio under development in her back green, the 56-year-old now has a clearer idea of what she will in her spare time as she winds down from the world of care work.

“I’m really quite excited and delighted that my creative side has reared itself again and I am just really, really enjoying it. I have got some really good exciting things in my head, da best is yet to come”, she said.