Volunteer takes on Kilimanjaro to raise £1m

Lynne McNicoll wants to build a retreat for patients. Picture: Toby Williams

Lynne McNicoll wants to build a retreat for patients. Picture: Toby Williams

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A CHARITY founder who is no stranger to ambitious fundraising targets has set herself the toughest challenge of her voluntary career.

Lynne McNicoll, from Craiglockhart, is attempting to raise a staggering £1 million to build a secluded retreat for young cancer patients and their families coping with the stress that comes with the often fatal disease.

And in efforts to meet the sky-high goal, the 56-year-old will trek to the top of Mount Kilimanjaro – the world’s highest free-standing mountain – later this year.

Lynne has walked across part of the Sahara Desert and been up into the Himalayas in Asia in the name of charity, but she said climbing the 5895m peak in Tanzania in October with 30 trekkers would be her greatest test. She said: “I like my home comforts. This is definitely the hardest thing I will ever have done.”

The trek only scratches the surface of Lynne’s achievements, which have led to her becoming the latest nominee for the Sick Kids Heroes awards. They recognise exceptional contributions made by staff and supporters, and the courage of patients.

In the space of only four years, Lynne’s leadership helped raise more than £650,000 to establish a new unit at the Sick Kids hospital in Sciennes for the care of teenagers with cancer. A separate unit is also being built at the Western General Hospital.

Lynne’s generous streak was sparked into action by planning for her 50th birthday.

She said she had wanted to do something a “little bit different” and eventually decided on raising £50,000 for the Teenage Cancer Trust.

Lynne said: “I’d never fund raised before, so it was a bit ambitious. But it turned out it was something I should have been doing for much longer because I love it.”

The good Samaritan, who has since won the 2009 Scottish Volunteer Fundraiser of the Year award, set up her own cancer charity, It’s Good 2 Give, in 2010 with husband Ian McNicoll. The couple have raised £300,000 of their £1m target directly through the charity.

In the meantime, Lynne has continued to provide extra services to the Sick Kids like delivering snacks into ward two every week and giving supply packs to parents.

Workshops have been held for young patients and simple requests like providing laptops to sick youngsters and helping pay for a mobility car for a 17-year-old cancer sufferer have also been met.

Lynne said: “While parents have got a child in treatment, it can be hard to think of some of the ordinary household jobs. We do a little bit of garden maintenance. The other thing that we’ve started is to give out ironing vouchers. They can have their laundry picked up, ironed and brought back.”

The fundraiser said creating the purpose-built respite house remained her ultimate goal. She said: “I suppose it’s a bit of a holiday house, but we hesitate to use the world ‘holiday’ in the circumstances.”

The steady stream of charity work has come despite dealing with the recent death of stepson Andrew McNicoll in a cycling accident.

Nominator Pamela Hunter said: “Lynne’s tireless commitment to her chosen task always fills me with admiration and she’s carried on, even through her own family’s tragedy when she lost her stepson last year.”

Award nominations must be submitted by Friday’s deadline at www.edinburghsickkids.org/events/nominate, by phoning 0131-668 4949, or by sending in our coupon.

BOOK TICKET FOR HEROIC LUNCH

WINNERS of the inaugural Sick Kids Heroes awards will be announced at a special ceremony and lunch on May 10.

The event will be held at the former Caledonian Hotel on Princes Street, with the awards celebrating the 20th anniversary of the Sick Kids Friends Foundation.

The winners are being decided by a public vote in four categories and by an expert panel in three others.

Tickets are £40 each and include a three-course meal and a glass of sparkling wine.

They can be booked by emailing Linda Cameron on linda.cameron@luht.scot.nhs.uk or calling SKFF on 0131 668 4949.