An intrepid trailer firm boss is taking on a towering challenge to raise cash for the charity which supported an army friend after he was maimed by a terrorist bomb.
For the second time in four years, Leyland businessman and army veteran Graeme Barlow is heading to Africa to tackle the gruelling ascent of Mount Kilimanjaro, the continent’s highest peak.
“It’s now over 20 years since I came out of the army and I’m not in peak condition but since January I’ve been training by getting up at 6am every morning and running three miles”Leyland businessman and army veteran Graeme Barlow
The 47-year-old director of Barlow Trailers Ltd in Southport Road, hopes to raise at least £25,000 for tri-service charity, The Not Forgotten Association, which has aided the recovery of a friend, Darren Swift, who lost both his legs to a bomb while he was working as a specialist army tracker dog handler in the early 1990s.
The association was formed in 1920 for the ‘comfort, cheer and entertainment’ of the wounded from World War One.
Over the years, it has adapted to meet changing needs but has the same aims for the welfare of serving wounded and the ex-service community with disabilities, supporting about 10,000 men and women annually.
Last time Graeme took on Kilimanjaro in 2011, raising £20,000, he had only himself to think about as he battled to the 19,335 foot (5,895 metres) summit of the mountain.
But this time he will be taking on the extra responsibility and physical test of acting as a member of the small support team for 10 serving and ex-service men and women – including a number of amputees and others with brain or sight injuries.
Graeme said: “The Not Forgotten Association is a fantastic charity. Me and Darren served together in the Royal Veterinary Corps’ 39 Brigade army dog unit. One day in 1991, Darren was close to a bomb when it exploded. He lost both his legs and another of our mates was killed.
“The charity has done an extraordinary job of getting Darren out and about and generally helped him to cope.
“It has also done the same for so many other injured serving and ex-service people, and that’s why I’ve decided to do the challenge again.”
Graeme is due to jet off in Tanzania, where Kilimanjaro is located, on September 23 and begin the six-day ascent to the peak a few days later.
The trek to the summit presents a serious physical challenge of fitness, endurance and mental strength – even for the able bodied.
The group will climb 3,455 metres and cover a distance of 25 kilometres, on the way experiencing five climate zones and temperatures ranging from 30°C to -20°C.
In the assault party will be single and double amputees, others who have sustained brain, sight and other injuries, as well as those suffering from other mental health problems.
Graeme, who served as a dog trainer with the Royal Army Veterinary Corps until leaving the army 22 years ago and joining the family trailer business, said: “There will be four of us in the support team, all of whom are ex-forces.
“We’ll be required to provide actual physical help for the 10 members of the group from time to time as well as offering them encouragement when they are experiencing difficulties.
“It’s now over 20 years since I came out of the army and I’m not in peak condition but since January I’ve been training by getting up at 6am every morning and running three miles.
“But I know it will be a really tough challenge.”
Established in 1970, Barlow Trailers is the main Lancashire distributor of Ifor Williams Trailers, the most popular trailers in the UK.
To support Graeme’s Kilimanjaro challenge, visit his charity page at www.justgiving.com/owner-email/pleasesponsor/Graeme-Barlow.