A Flintshire girl is embarking on the trip of a lifetime to support her best friend after a life-changing accident.
Grace Thorne, 23, from Penymynydd, who has completed many fundraising events such as sky-diving and other ‘out there’ things, decided to face the highest mountain in Africa, Kilimanjaro, for charity.
Her chosen cause was “very close to home” and an easy decision for the performing arts graduate.
Her best friend, Catrin Pugh, 23, from Rossett, was involved in a severe coach crash returning from a skiing in the French Alps in April 2013.
The teenager, then 19, suffered 96 per cent burns, spent three months in a coma and underwent 200 operations after being pulled from the ‘fireball’ wreckage.
She had a one per cent chance of survival but wowed doctors with her fighting spirit and is still the only person to ever recover from such extensive burn injuries.
Grace said: “My best friend, Catrin, miraculously survived the crash. It was gruelling for her but she’s alive and kicking and as sassy as ever.
“I’m raising money for the Katie Piper Foundation because they help burn sufferers have a better and easier life.
“I chose this charity because they’re underrated and undervalued – these days it’s all the big names that get lots of attention.
“I contacted the foundation and to be fair they did it all for me. They organised the whole thing. I booked it in January and then it was done!”
After the success of her first fundraising concert in June, where she raised £800, Grace decided to host another charity event at the Penyffordd and Penymynydd Royal British Legion.
She said: “The night was fantastic and the band went really well, they had everyone up dancing.
“Unfortunately we didn't raise anywhere near as much as I'd hoped, but we got £576.11, which takes me just over £3,000. I now have £1,100 to go.
“It’s such a great feeling when I’ve completed a fundraising event and can phone up Carla, who runs the whole charity as a one-woman-office, and say ‘I’ve raised this much’ – and she’s really grateful.”
Grace said that overall, fundraising the £4,200 target before the climb was “harder than I expected.”
“I booked the trip in January this year, and thought I’d be fine to raise four grand in a year. It has been difficult but worth it.
“I’ve got good contacts, which does help,” and Grace would like to add her thanks to Mike Smith, an acoustic guitarist who performed on Friday, and band Right Turn Clyde, who also performed alongside Grace herself.
Grace added: “I’m the first person to climb Kilimanjaro for the Katie Piper Foundation.
“Lots of people have done marathons but I suppose this is a debut for them too.
“I’ve just joined the gym to start specific training. A friend of mine who climbed it said you can prepare for the physical gruelling side, but you can’t train for the altitude.
“It’s the mental side which will be hard to prepare for.
“It will be hard work but I can’t stop, I’ve got to get that picture at the top and think about my best friend.”
Catrin has supported Grace throughout all her events, and the pair continue to give talks to pupils at schools about the challenges they’ve faced, and how beneficial fundraising for worthy causes can be.