On 23rd August, a group of 19 Dads that have children with Smith-Magenis syndrome completed the epic ‘3 Peaks Challenge’ to raise money and awareness for SMS. The event involved trekking up the highest mountain in Scotland, England and Wales and is considered one of the ultimate tests of physical endurance, mental stamina and teamwork. During the challenge, the SMS Dads had to climb a staggering 10,000 metre (combined) ascent to the top of Ben Nevis, Scafell Pike, and Mount Snowdon and trek over 32 miles of rough and rocky terrain.
Following the SMS conference in 2017, Mick Pearson a trustee for the SMS Foundation UK, set up a WhatsApp group specifically to support fathers of children with SMS allowing him to connect families, build relationships and share experiences.
The 3 peaks challenge was the brainchild of Jim Parker, a Dad on the WhatsApp group, and Mick Pearson took on the main coordinator role encouraging the SMS Dads to join the team, planning the event, and raising awareness for it. The group of fathers completed the challenge together as a team, with Dads stepping forward to take shifts in driving the transport between the mountains and cooking food for the climbers.
So far the event has raised well over £16,000 for the SMS Foundation in donations, with more money from other activities and events yet to come in.
We asked some of the Dads that took part in the challenge to share with us what the experience meant to them, and what they got out of it.
After 6 years of living with a child with SMS, I still feel alone. Mick encouraged me to join the SMS challenge, even though I was not healthy enough to walk but help as support. What did I have to lose, so I accepted. I am by nature reserved, especially when hurting. Being around these amazing dads was so uplifting. Meeting a group of dads that go through the same trials as me has helped me and I have made friends I can count on. Maybe I do not have to do everything alone.
So there we were 19 of us, 19 Dads who had said goodbye to our loved ones and special children, 19 Dads all sitting around a dinner table with a beer or two and a lovely meal, 19 of us who had never met but were there to share in one special challenge !! It was a Thursday night and in 36hrs time it was to be done and dusted.The challenge was the 3 peaks to raise awareness for our wonderful charity and boy was it tough going !! Ben Nevis – seemingly never ending , Scafell Pike – the nightmare climb, and Snowdon – The Majestic !! It was mentally and physically exhausting and without the support of those Dads around me I would have failed !! They helped pull me through when it seems I couldn’t go any further!! But then again what did I expect? Us Dads do this every day, we help our family and each other through the exhaustion every day !! With words of encouragement, the littlest word at the right time is the biggest gesture!!
So now it’s Saturday night the challenge is done we have raised an amazing amount of awareness and money for our charity but more than that we raised awareness in ourselves – that we can always reach out for help and we will find it and more than that we finished as 19 friends.
We went to the conference last time it was on not really knowing a thing about SMS bar what we got on Google and the help and experience of other parents was brilliant, we left knowing a lot more and we’re much more at ease with SMS. The conference couldn’t happen without the SMS Foundation, so when I heard about the 3 peaks I felt I wanted to give something back and help out. The bonus was meeting all the other lads and spending 3 days and nights talking about each other’s kids. It was something I never thought I’d ever climb a mountain never mind 3 so thanks to the support crew and all those who took part, twas an unforgettable experience 👍
The Three Peaks challenge was never about the fundraising for me, it was about being around other’s that live the same life as me. It was amazing how strong the connection was with the other Dads. This challenge was hard on the body and as well as the mind. The best part of the entire challenge was when we were all sitting around the table at the Ben Nevis restaurant the low point was on Snowdon, I hit a wall and really thought I could not continue “I was done” but encouragement from the others drove me to the top.
Knowing I wasn’t physically able to compete in the challenge it was a pleasure to be a driver and still help. Not being the most sociable person I was apprehensive about being with 15 strangers who I had never met, but what a great bunch of guys they were. It was so refreshing to know you are not alone and that all of us struggle with our everyday lives. It was an honour to be a driver knowing it was helping to make the challenge possible and to leave at the end having made friends with lots of new people.
When I first heard about the idea of Dads living with SMS doing some fundraising and that the three peaks was a possibility I thought what a great way to get a bunch of Dads from around the UK and Ireland together. Not just to raise lots of money but for us to talk and listen, for us to think Wow we are not alone!!
As soon as we set off the talking started, some more than others (no names) But my thoughts were, what a great bunch that I’m going to spend the next few days with. The challenge itself was a mixture of all abilities working together. Some found it harder than others but everyone jelled and worked well as a team. As the walk progressed more and more stories came out about issues with our kids!! No criticism, just listening and different angles of advice, some of which I hadn’t heard of before. Don’t get me wrong the challenge was tough both mentally and physically but with the team we had, nothing is impossible. Everest next guys.
My experience of the Three Peaks Challenge was as support although there was very little support needed apart from a little driving and cooking as the event had been planned to the finest detail, (down to the last Snickers bar). Meeting the Dads and putting faces to the WhatsApp names was great I feel I have made some lifelong friends. Having time to talk face to face and hearing some of the problems the Dads face with their children and how they deal with them made me realise I am not alone, you could tell the children are in good hands by the sheer determination these guys showed in climbing the mountains, some had never done this before, all suffering from years of sleep deprivation and the emotional roller coaster of SMS. Well done guys.
When I was first asked to participate in the 3 peaks challenge I was well up for it. Although I was feeling anxious about spending 3 days with a load of other blokes (most of whom I’d never met before) I was excited to be raising awareness for SMS. The hardest part for me was Scafell pike. The first 2 mountains on no sleep was a killer but it was all worth it once we got to the top of Snowdon. I still get a buzz every time I talk about it. I am so proud of myself and all the other dads that took part. I have also made some lifelong friends who understand the daily struggles of living with SMS.
When I thought about the 3 Peaks challenge I wanted to be a part of it but was also aware that the climb may be too much for me. So I enrolled as a driver. The thought of spending a whole weekend with a group of people I didn’t know was quite daunting, but, we have a bond, a very special bond. SMS is isolating, A lot of my friends have disappeared since diagnosis and the ones that are left I cannot talk openly with. The 3 peaks challenge gave me time and opportunity to meet these gents and relax, knowing that whatever we said or shared was totally understood, a very rare treat indeed. To be part of this team was an honor and a privilege. Watching the chaps doing the climb was a lesson in determination and teamwork, seeing true friendships being formed through adversity, moulding a bunch of strangers into one big family.
The added bonus to the challenge was that we raised a fantastic amount of money for the SMS Foundation which has been a lifeline for us, and others in our position.
Raising the amount of money we did was a huge achievement, but to me meeting the Dad’s was far more important. We started the challenge as 15 strangers but by the end we were like family, the pride I felt at the top of Snowdon with these great men is immeasurable, and as the clouds parted and we sipped whiskey it felt like someone was looking down on us. Every one of us struggled at times but there was always someone to lift you up, it was meant to be a challenge (and it was) but I had the time of my life and it felt great to openly talk about our struggles and even better to help others with theirs.
Raising so much money climbing the three peaks was a bonus. The main aims were to build lasting relationships amongst the Dads and to raise awareness and there was no doubt these were achieved. Nobody understands SMS kids like parents do, and being able to share experiences was priceless. Spending time together traveling, climbing, freezing, losing people, getting a puncture and eating Snickers provided the best possible environment to get to know each other better and to help support our kids. Great team, great achievement. Not forgetting the Mums who were left to do a great job at home.
15 Dads, 3 Mountains, 3 Countries, 32 miles, 10,000 feet, 75,000 steps and too many Snickers! Wow, and I loved every minute. 15 Dads, some I had met and some only from the WhatsApp group have become lifelong friends. The challenge was tough, but nothing compared to the daily struggles we all face. I couldn’t believe the number of people we met along the journey who donated or asked about the Challenge. We met one guy and his son on the way up to Snowdon. His son was autistic, and he’d just made it to the summit. His Dad asked about Smith-Magenis and then turned to his son and said, “you see I told you we would meet incredible people doing this”. The money we have raised is staggering and the response from work and friends has been overwhelming. Can’t wait for next year’s Challenge!!
The high point of the challenge for me was doing Ben Nevis. Having never done anything like that before I was blown away by the views up there (I still think about it a lot all these weeks later) the low point for me was obviously Snowdon and the bitter disappointment I felt when I was unable to continue. This was only bearable for me because of the pride I felt for the rest of the group for finishing and the amazing amount of money we raised. The main thing I will remember about the whole experience is the feeling of camaraderie with the rest of the lads, how comfortable I felt with everyone from the very start, the unspoken understanding we all had for each other and each other’s lives, the laughs, and the banter. New friends for life. What an unforgettable 3 days!! Great jobs guys.