After seeing a Together for Short Lives leaflet while waiting to pay at a Hobbycraft till, Deon Jarvis decided to take on an epic fundraising challenge – trekking the Walkers Haute Route, a 125-mile hiking trail through the Swiss Alps from Chamonix to Zermatt.
Deon’s determination to support Together for Short Lives was motivated by an upsetting personal experience. Upon reading our aim to provide a lifetime of difference to children and families with life-limiting and life-threatening conditions, Deon was reminded of the tragic case of a friend’s child who was born with a hole in their heart and sadly didn’t make it to their first birthday.
One look at the charity slogan and it had me determined to help in any way that I could. I felt saddened by the thought of youngsters not living to there full potential.Deon
Amazingly, Deon wasn’t at all nervous about the challenge. A long-distance walking fanatic who is passionate about supporting small charities, Deon traversed the South Downs Way – a 100-mile trail between Winchester and Eastbourne – for MS Society UK last October. Unfortunately, terrible knee pain forced him to abandon his first attempt, one of the hardest decisions he said he’s ever had to make. A month later, recovered and with knees and ankles heavily strapped, he returned to complete it.
Training for this challenge wasn’t straightforward either. In-between dad duties and working night shifts on the London Underground, Deon somehow squeezed time into his busy schedule by doing indoor training. His daughter (Jorja, 9) was also eager to help, jogging alongside dad when he trained outdoors.
Following a life-long ambition to walk in the Alps, Deon set off for Switzerland on Friday 20th July, first catching the Eurostar to Paris, then a coach to Geneva and finally a shuttle to Chamonix. However, once on the trail, things didn’t quite go to plan.
While Deon had planned to reach the finish line in Zermatt in only 6 days, he was forced to withdraw from the challenge on day 4 due to the effects of sun stroke and a stomach illness acquired from drinking too much mountain stream water. After a sleepless night at high altitude, Deon took the sensible decision to throw in the towel.
Determined not to allow himself to be conquered by the Swiss mountains, Deon has vowed to come back next year and complete the Haute Route. Admitting that he underestimated the difficulty of the hike, Deon’s plan for next year is to take 10 days instead of 6 and use the time to strengthen his knees and improve his stamina. For now, despite not reaching Zermatt, all of Deon’s sponsors have been supportive in maintaining their full donations.
I am not going to allow a mountain to conquer meDeon
Deon’s wife, Shanna, was a huge help in the build-up to the big event, fundraising through her online confectionery business – Marula Kitchen. Shanna’s home-cooked South African sweets were a vital part of Deon’s efforts. Aside from cake sales, Deon used every spare moment at work to tell his colleagues about his Haute Route challenge, encouraging them to donate to his JustGiving page.
If you feel inspired by Deon’s story, why not sign up for a fundraising challenge of your own? Visit our challenge event page to find out more.