People get involved in our fundraising challenges for all kinds of reasons. But they all have one thing in common – they want to support autistic people and their families. A few of our wonderful fundraisers share their stories about why they decided to take on Scafell Pike â€‹below.

James Kenyon
Richard Kirkham
Josh Kenny
Ronna Lee
Rupel Maru

James Kenyon

Photo: James KenyonStar Wars Fan with Asperger syndrome copes using the power of “The Force”.

The force is strong with a young man by the name of James Kenyon. Kenyon, 25, was diagnosed with Asperger syndrome at the early age of five, and is preparing to take part in the Scafell Pike Challenge in an effort to raise money for The National Autistic Society.

Located in the Lake District in Cumbria, Scafell Pike is the highest peak in England, with an elevation of 978 meters above sea level. With his parents alongside, Kenyon will attempt the arduous challenge of climbing the peak on August 13, 2017.

James hopes that his fundraising endeavours will help raise money as well as awareness for people similar to him, “who have a very specific way of viewing things.” Individuals who have Asperger syndrome often lack the ability to effectively communicate in a social setting. They may also find it challenging to use their imaginations. Having been diagnosed with Asperger syndrome at such a young age, he said he didn't “recall being diagnosed at all,” and had instituted his own coping mechanisms.

James attributes his ability to cope with Asperger syndrome to the hit sci-fi saga Star Wars. He says, "nowadays I do try to be more mindful, like a Jedi Knight, because even though it's science-fiction, it does tell you a lot about thoughts and feelings and how you don’t let certain feelings get in the way of what you’re doing.”

“I mean, as far as I could tell I was quite normal when I was a toddler and then one day out of the blue, for some strange reason, my brain just kept getting kind of really packed with all these different kinds of imaginative stuff,” he said.

Although James lost his ability to speak at one point, his mother Judith never gave up hope. “We used to have a big bit of lined paper, because James had lost his language, and he used to just write and draw and that was his way of communicating,” she said. “His language came back because we just kept pouring it in and pouring it in and we never stopped,” said Judith.

Growing up, James attended many different schools but had difficulty concentrating, making him a target for bullies. He became home-schooled as a result. “I found it difficult, just mainly because I found it hard to enjoy the food they served and also, I was bullied at least a few times”, he said. “And then, for some strange reason, all this pointless anxiety came along and I think I do know why that was now”. 

James also said, in words that Yoda himself would be proud to hear, “I keep trying to remember kinds of teaching that I’ve picked up, which kind of makes me have the feeling to keep moving on; I just let all these unwanted thoughts be pushed out with a single exhale.” James’ mum has found strength in his struggle, saying that his condition has taught her “not to give up.” She says, “I think in some ways it doesn’t define you, but it actually gives you enormous value to your life. Even though it’s a struggle at times, it really does give you enormous value.”

By taking part in such an impressive and high profile fundraising event, James and his family are helping to increase understanding, and their donations will allow the charity to provide more vital support to autistic people and families.

James, Judith and Guy Kenyon have raised £1000.

Richard Kirkham

Photo: Richard and James KirkhamMy son James was diagnosed as being on the autism spectrum almost two years ago. When he was a baby he was always quiet and very content with himself, he was quite happy just to lay in his Moses basket or sit in his bouncy chair, the total opposite from being the demanding attention-loving baby that our first born daughter was.

When our son was two and a half years old, his speech was barely existent and certain traits and behaviours were becoming more apparent, for example changes in his routine made him upset and he would appear confused and anxious. We couldn't tell if he understood anything we told him or anything we asked him to do. We knew he had communication difficulties and being our first son, we were told and led to believe that boys were much slower than girls, and thought his behaviour and traits were "just normal boy stuff".

Having only ever heard of autism and Asperger syndrome, and not knowing or understanding what it was, we didn't even think that our son could in fact be autistic, and had a condition we didn't even know he had. So when he was two and a half we spoke to the health visitor about his speech and she arranged for him to join "talk time" sessions at the Sure Start centre, which he attended for two full terms.

However, as he attended the sessions it was very apparent that he had great difficulties compared to the other children who were also attending, and who were younger than James. So we put our concerns forward again and then started to do some research of our own, looking into his behaviour and his communication difficulties. We were shocked to say the least that it could be autism our son had. At first it was hard to take in and accept but the more we read into it the more we knew we needed to act now and get him the help he obviously needed.

The health visitor arranged hearing tests and for him to see speech and language therapists. We took our son to see our GP who referred him to the paediatrician and psychiatrist. There was lots of waiting for appointments to see all the relevant people he needed to see in order to get assessments. All of the assessments were sent to a panel to discuss and in October 2015 the panel met and diagnosed James as being autistic. We cried not from disappointment but from relief we knew now that he would get the help he so needed.

We are so proud of our son and how much he has come on since getting extra help with a one-to-one assistant at school and the speech and language therapists. When he started school in September 2015 James could barely put two words together. Now, almost two years on, he can put five or six words together in a sentence. We are so happy with the progress our son has made and it is all down to the people involved in James’ care, improving James’ life and helping him on his journey.

We are so proud to be on the journey with our son, every milestone celebrated and treasured, no matter how small. It is because of this I wanted to do something to give back and to say thank you in honour of all of those involved in James’ care, and to raise money for such a fantastic cause, and help raise awareness of autism.

Richard has raised over £400.

Josh Kenny

Photo: Jake KennyWhy am I climbing Scafell Pike?

Is it because it is the highest mountain in England? Is it as I want to tick off the highest Alfred Wainwright walk? Is it because I love walking in the Lake District? Is it for the views? Yes, it is in fact for all those reasons! However, there is one more special reason why myself, my fiancée Shannon, and my parents Anne and Lee, are climbing Scafell Pike... it is for my younger brother Jake, who is autistic – he is our everyday hero. Unfortunately autism is misunderstood and many people don't know a lot about what it is like to know someone with autism, never mind being autistic themselves.

In the school holidays, Jake and my parents were in a local cafe where people would stare at Jake and some people actually moved tables so they would not sit near them as Jake was in his usual cheeky, happy mood. To others this was obviously too noisy? Too happy? Wrong? Whatever their excuse may be, we’re now in 2017 and I don’t think this is acceptable! Thankfully Jake is oblivious to people doing this but it is hurtful for the families who see this behaviour. By climbing Scafell Pike and fundraising at the many events held prior to the challenge, I’m hoping that we’ll raise autism awareness and most importantly acceptance, not for the families –but for those with autism – who are perfect to us!

Who is my inspiration?

My brother, Jake, is my inspiration for taking on this challenge. Jake holds a massive place in my heart, not only is he my brother but he is my buddy too. (Along with our younger brother Robbie, we are a team.) Jake is 20 years old and his current loves are My Little Pony, Lego, Care Bears and of course not forgetting Brak! He also loves going to the Lakes for walks and even has his own Facebook page @Jakeinthelakes.

I don't think he really likes the walking part, more that he gets treated to an ice cream at the end! As you can see from the picture, Jake has an infectious smile and there really isn't a dull moment when he is around! Lots of people tell me that Jake is lucky to have brothers like myself and Robbie but I can definitely vouch for us both that we feel even luckier to have Jake in our lives.

How do I feel about the day?

It would be wrong to say I am not excited as I will be taking on the challenge with my parents and fiancée while also getting the chance to share an experience with people who are also taking on this challenge for someone they love – which is very overwhelming. My fiancée and I already do quite a bit of fell walking but I can’t say I’m not nervous! We have had a huge amount of support at a charity coffee morning, charity race night and at a charity football match.

So while taking part in this challenge is very important for raising awareness, it is equally important for giving back something to those who have supported us every step of the way, as without them we wouldn’t have been able to take part in the challenge or share Jake’s story. 

Josh, his fiancée Shannon, and parents Anne and Lee, are taking on the Scafell Pike Challenge in August and have raised almost £6,000!

Ronna Lee

Photo: Callum LeeMy son Callum was diagnosed with autism when he was two and a half. Callum faces many struggles on a daily basis. These struggles impact on his life and ours as a family. The support of family is paramount, and the support of professionals is vital.

The National Autistic Society provides families with support, guidance and help with understanding the world of autism. They offer support in so many ways, they help you to embrace your child, to celebrate the successes and how to ride the storms. They are a lifeline, a community, a family.

Parents are often left feeling like failures, like all they do is not good enough, like they are not great parents. I know I have. The National Autistic Society is there to help us through these times. My sister Viv is a huge support to us as a family and that is why we are doing this together. We are doing this for my beautiful son Callum and for the amazing children, adults and their families living with autism. We can't thank you enough for taking the time to read this and we do hope that you can support us in this very worthwhile cause.

As part of our fundraising efforts we held a danceathon! We had about 17 people in each class and of course I went to all three of the classes!! We had never done Bowka or Zumba before but we loved it! We provided fruit and chocolate to all to say thanks – the instructors volunteered their time to help put this event on. This danceathon helped us raise another £210 to add to our growing pot!

Altogether Ronna and Viv have raised an amazing £1782.85.

Rupel Maru

Photo: RupelI currently work as a SENCO in a school, having come here from India to study and get a Qualified Teaching Certificate. While doing my degree, I worked part time in a nursery for 20 hours a week. At the nursery, there was a little boy who never used to communicate or share eye contact and he didn’t like any sensory play or cuddles.

I started applying strategies to make him feel more comfortable and he gradually began to trust me. As we bonded so well, his mum was really happy that he had settled in well and was trying new things on a daily basis. I then became his key worker and moved down with him to pre-school too. He achieved his targets and I helped him and his parents to see that autism is not something to be scared of – it's about seeing life with different perception and living in a special way. He got in to a good school and is now doing really well.

Maybe, this was the reason I developed a zest for helping autistic people. I decided to search opportunities where I can help autistic kids. Now I am a member of The National Autistic Society and have chosen to do this trek to raise money to support the invaluable work that The National Autistic Society does.