A Chepstow mum is among of team of friends provding there definitely ain’t no mountain high enough for an intrepid group of mums of children with life-shortening conditions who are set to tackle the Welsh Three Peaks for Tŷ Hafan Children’s Hospice.

The eight mothers, including Martina Harding from Chepstow, all have a child cared for by the much-loved children’s hospice, are aiming to conquer Yr Wyddfa / Snowdon, Cadair Idris and Pen-y-Fan on Sunday, May 7 despite most of them being self-confessed newbies to mountain walking.

What they are old hands at, though, is dealing with the emotional, physical, and practical mountains to climb that come thick and fast when looking after a child with a life-shortening condition.

Bridget Harpwood, whose 12-year-old daughter Elain was born with a complex heart condition and has been supported by Tŷ Hafan since she was a baby, came up with the Mums v Mountains challenge.

Bridget, mum and stepmum of five, from Aberystwyth, said: “We have sat back for a while and watched the Tŷ Hafan Dads team do physical challenges over the past few years, and we now feel like it’s our turn! Mums often naturally fall into the primary carer role when they have a child with additional health needs. This means that sometimes we struggle to prioritise and find time for ourselves.

“This challenge will be an amazing opportunity to both raise money and for Tŷ Hafan Mums to experience something they may never get the chance to do otherwise.

“I think parent carers are often stereotyped as people whose lives are dominated by their caring responsibilities. Quite often our situations end up being dictated to us by our children and we may not get the opportunities or freedom to do the things that we would like to do.

“This challenge will push many of us outside our comfort zones and we will all have to be super-determined and organised with our preparation and training. I’d like to think that by doing this challenge we can help redefine how people perceive palliative care and those families who experience living with a life-limiting prognosis.”

The Mums vs Mountains live in various locations across South and West Wales including Cardiff (Lynsey Harris), Barry (Stacey Carr), Penarth (Helen Jenkins), Llantwit Major (Alex Forbes), Bridgend (Marie Jones and Kat Brown) and Chepstow (Martina Harding) and have become friends thanks to Tŷ Hafan.

Martina story

We were not sure what to expect but Tŷ Hafan was nothing we imagined a hospice could be.

Hi, I am Martina, a wife to Glyn and a mum of three children – Mila 9, Bow 5 and Max who would have been 7 years old this year. Sadly his journey was short and he died at 4 months old. Max was diagnosed with Spinal Muscular Atrophy Type 1 at 9 weeks old.

SMA is a genetic condition that makes the muscles weaker and gets worse over time. Because Max was diagnosed at an early age we were advised to think about end of life care.

We were offered to continue to stay in the hospital, go home with an assistance of outreach care or take Max to Tŷ Hafan hospice. We felt devastated and agreed to be able to provide Max with the best care and still being able to function as a family, we had our 2 year old daughter to think about too, Tŷ Hafan seemed the best option.  

We were not sure what to expect but Tŷ Hafan was nothing we imagined a hospice could be. It is a warm welcoming place where nothing is impossible. Our little family had an apartment at the end of the hospice, just the 4 of us. We had a dedicated team available to us day and night as and when we needed. We had a room with sea view where we stayed with Max during the day and were able to receive visits from our families and friends. My parents and a brother stayed for a few nights in separate rooms in the hospice and spent a few quality days with us and Max. We were able to use the gardens for walks and play with our daughter in the park, we had access to hydro therapy pool, sensory play, we were fed with hearty meals three times a day. Max adored the staff and we could focus on our days together. 

Tŷ Hafan held my hand through the darkest time of my life, they made the toughest days just that little brighter. We made friends in those wonderful people. They gave me strength to take care of our son, that being his mum provides me with best instincts and decision making. They taught me and my husband to feed Max through Nasal Gastric tube when he was no longer able to breastfeed, how to change the NG tube if there was a problem, how to administer morphine when the time came. I always had someone to talk to if I questioned myself or looked for a reassurance.

Their caring approach and ‘everything is possible’ attitude changed our life. We were able to make many memories as a family, happy or sad, and having Tŷ Hafan by my side made me stronger to deal with what was to come. They helped us emotionally and physically to face our reality and we are truly grateful to be part of the Tŷ Hafan family and for their support that continues to date whether that is through bereavement events, sibling’s group or days out.

I promised myself (and Max) that I will continue to spread awareness of Tŷ Hafan hospice and help to raise funds so they can carry on their amazing service for families like ours. Not many people are aware that charities like Tŷ Hafan receive as little as 9% of their annual running costs from the Government and must fundraise the rest themselves relying on a public support.

So on Sunday 7th May, I will be climbing with fellow Tŷ Hafan mums the three highest mountains of Wales. We will start before dawn to ascent mighty Snowdon, then continue onto the ever challenging Cadair Idris and finish at the Brecon Beacon’s highest peak Pen-y-Fan. We all have different journeys but will come together on this path of our journey so we can give back the support Tŷ Hafan once provided or still provide to us.

We do appreciate times are hard and would welcome every little donation that you can spare. Thank you for reading and thank you for donating.

They are aiming to raise in excess of £20,000 for the hospice, which they describe as their “absolute lifeline”.

Paula Langston, Head of Community Fundraising for Tŷ Hafan, said: “I am totally in awe of what every mother who is looking after a child with a life-shortening condition deals with every day as it is one of the hardest things a person can do.

“The fact that these eight mums have decided to push themselves even further and tackle the three highest peaks in Wales in just 24 hours and all to raise vital funds for Tŷ Hafan is amazing.

“It costs £5.2m a year to provide our care and support services, both in our hospice based in Sully, and in homes and communities across South, West and East Wales and more than 80% comes from the fantastic generosity of the public.

“I hope that as many people as possible will get right behind our Mums v Mountains and help them to realise their ambition and raise as much money as possible for Tŷ Hafan. Join me in wishing them luck on this incredible adventure.”

The women have also gained the backing of Convey Law and the Conveyancing Foundation, lead sponsors for their epic challenge. In the past ten years Convey Law has raised close to £400,000 for Tŷ Hafan.

Lloyd Davies, managing director of Convey Law and chairman of the Conveyancing Foundation said: “Convey Law and the Conveyancing Foundation are delighted to be supporting these Tŷ Hafan mums on their Mums v Mountains Three Peaks Challenge in May.

“These incredible ladies have our full support in what will be a difficult but rewarding challenge. We wish the mums every success in their fundraising endeavours and we would encourage everyone – individuals and corporate sponsors – to please support them fully.”

To read each mum’s individual story and to support the Mums v Mountains for Tŷ Hafan go to their Mums v Mountains JustGiving page here: https://www.justgiving.com/campaign/mumsVmountains?invite=true