CROWDS gathered around Esquires Coffee House in the Water Gardens on a spring-like Saturday morning, ready to join brain injury survivor David Chennells on his massive challenge to walk one mile through the town centre.
This walk was to be the furthest distance David had walked since his brain haemorrhage in 2007, which left him unable to speak or walk. Before his brain injury the former solicitor used to run half marathons but it has taken years of rehabilitation just to re-learn the basic skills of speaking and walking. Now, almost 10 years to the date later, David was determined to do something positive to mark this anniversary and his 36th birthday.
The aim of the challenge was to raise vital funds for the Brain and Spine Foundation, a charity that supports people affected by neurological problems, but also to raise awareness of brain injuries, particularly in young people.
Over the past six months and in preparation for this challenge, David has been exercising at the gym using a tailored programme from the fitness team at Harlow Leisurezone, attending regular physiotherapy at Mike Varney’s clinic and trying to complete a long walk each week.
Amongst the crowd of around 100 supporters were members of the Brain and Spine Foundation, crew from Old Harlow Fire Station, staff from the Citizen’s Advice Harlow (where David regularly volunteers), former colleagues from Attwaters Solicitors, Harlow MP Robert Halfon, besides many friends and family members.
David led his supporters on a one mile circuit around the town centre like the Pied Piper of Hamelin, only stopping for a brief rest a couple of times and for photographs outside the Citizen’s Advice Bureau and Attwaters Jameson Hill Solicitors. The route took the walkers along Broad Walk, past the Market Square and through the Harvey Centre.
The former solicitor completed the challenge in under an hour with the crowd right behind him and cheering him to victory along the home strait, past the Civic Centre to finish at Esquires, where he was congratulated by Robert Halfon. David was also presented with a gold medal by the Spine and Brain Foundation, in recognition of his fantastic achievement.
David has now raised over £3000, including offline donations and gift aid, and he himself expressed his shock and gratitude for the amount of support he has received: ‘‘Loads of people came to join the walk and I really wasn’t expecting so many…I feel very proud to complete the challenge and I’m really grateful to everyone who donated and walked with me. I’m shocked by how much money we’ve managed to raise in total.’’
The Brain and Spine Foundation team said: ‘We congratulate David on his remarkable 1 mile walk – we were very proud to be there on the day to show support! We are extremely grateful for the incredible amount of money he has raised. With this amount, we are able to run our neuroscience nurse staffed Helpline for 12 days. Anyone with any neurological problem – whether it is rare or common – is able to receive expert information and support via our Helpline and David, through his fantastic fundraising efforts, has ensured continuity to this much needed service. Thank you, David!’
Speaking ahead of the walk, Sheenagh Parsons, former Managing Partner of Attwaters Jameson Hill, praised David’s dedication and ‘determination’: ‘‘It has been a real loss to our profession that David was unable to fulfil his dream and become the 1st class Commercial Solicitor that he was destined to be. The determination he is showing now to make himself as well as he can and push himself beyond his limits is indicative of the character David is. He is still helping the community doing valuable work with the Citizens Advice Harlow, using the skills learnt as a young solicitor. David used to run half marathons, but the walk he is about to do will be a much greater challenge than any marathon he has done in the past. We wish him the best of luck with his latest challenge, and we will be there supporting him every step of the way.’’
Tiziana Groom, Citizens Advice Harlow CEO commented: ‘‘We are so proud to have David part of our team and through his own hard work and determination the man that walked in with support, no longer needs that support by his side.’’
David’s physiotherapist Mike Varney said: ‘‘We are very proud of David’s achievements and are supporting him every step of the way.’’
Mark Macciochi, Health & Fitness Manager at Harlow Leisurezone: ‘‘David has come a very long way since he first joined and attends the gym on a regular basis on his own. The team still work with him to continue improving, but David has managed to use some equipment independently. The team have been pleasantly surprised that David is now able to participate in boxing pad work, when a few years ago they would never have though it was possible.’’
To sponsor David please visit his fundraising page:
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