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Community / Sisters take on 12 hour walk in aid of blood cancer charity two decades after losing dad

Julie (left) and Helen before setting off from North Roe in the early morning.

MORE than £3,000 has been raised for charity by two sisters who walked over 20 miles across the north mainland on Saturday.

Helen, 23, and Julie Dennison, 26, took on the fundraiser for the Anthony Nolan charity, which helped their dad Patrick during treatment for leukaemia.

He passed away 20 years ago, so the Dennisons decided to cover 20 miles – between the North Roe and Muckle Roe halls.

Despite careful planning, tracking on the day showed that the pair actually covered around 24 miles.

Helen and Julie started off in North Roe, and walked through Ollaberry and Sullom before reaching a waiting crowd at their home village of Muckle Roe.

Julie and Helen Dennison with their dad Patrick.

The walk in total lasted around 12 hours, leading to some understandable spaegie the day after, although they enjoyed some company along the way with “pit stops” set up too.

“We knew that it was going to be a long day, but we couldn’t predict exactly how long the walk would take,” Julie reflected.

“We made a rough plan looking at maps online, and we knew we would need an early start so we set off from the North Roe Hall at 8:20am.

“We had to remember to pace ourselves – I can be a relatively brisk walker so I had to slow things down at the beginning.

“We hit 10 miles at Eela Water. As we made our way around the loch, that was when I thought to myself, ‘this is really happening!’.”

Julie said while the route itself was not too difficult, “we had to overcome the classic Shetland weather”, including wind and rain.

Despite the lengthy walk, Julie described the day as “very lightsome”.

“We’re very grateful to everyone who took time out of their day to check in with us,” she said.

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“We are also very grateful to everybody who brought food and drink and made home bakes for us, we were spoilt for choice on what to eat at our pit stops.

“A big thank you as well to Helen’s colleagues at Scoop for the care package they put together for us.

“A big thank you to our peerie cousins, Mya and Findlay Johnson, for keeping us entertained through the day and for holding the ribbon at the finish line for us.

Mya (7) and Findlay Johnson (4), Lochend, with their motivational posters at the Ollaberry Hall.

“They had made motivational posters for us so their encouragement kept us going through the day. Mya walked with us from Collafirth Pier to the Ollaberry Hall, and made walking through Leon look effortless.”

Helen and Julie’s dad received a bone marrow (stem cell) transplant through Anthony Nolan as part of his treatment.

The Dennisons encouraged anyone aged 16 to 30 to consider joining the charity’s stem cell donor register.

Anthony Nolan connects people with blood cancer to strangers who are happy to donate their stem cells, which is potentially life-saving.

“We lost our Dad, Patrick, in 2001 after he was diagnosed with Leukaemia in 1997,” Julie explained.

“During his treatment he received a bone marrow transplant through Anthony Nolan. Although things unfortunately didn’t work out, the transplant gave him the chance he wouldn’t have had otherwise, and for that we are very grateful.

“Because of this, we wanted to give something back to the charity.”

Adding people to the Anthony Nolan register comes at a cost to the charity, though, with a £40 price tag each time.

Julie said the initial fundraising page target was £500, adding that the pair have been “absolutely blown away” by the support they have received.

Their “20 in 20” effort was part of Anthony Nolan’s Walking Together event, bring people together to go for sponsored walks to mark Blood Cancer Awareness Month.

“To date, this year’s fundraisers across the UK have raised over £27,000 for Anthony Nolan, and we are very proud to have had a hand in reaching that amazing figure,” Julie added.

Helen and Julie’s fundraising donations page will remain open for the time being and people can donate via this link.

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