Earlier this month, RAF wife Maria Gordon flew to Beijing to take on the Great Wall of China, trekking over eight days, and all to raise money for the Royal Air Force Benevolent Fund. In this guest blog, Maria explains why the charity is so close to her heart.
In 2012, my father, Graham Handley, a Chief Technician who served in the RAF for 22 years, was diagnosed with cancer and given between six and 12 months to live.
Unexpectedly, he passed away just three weeks later, which also fell the day after my birthday. Since then I have set myself an annual fundraising challenge as a way of honouring his memory which has so far included a swimathon, climbing London's O2 arena and a skydive with the Red Devils.
I always feel guilty celebrating my birthday because Dad died the day after, but it's comforting to be able to complete these challenges in his memory. Signing up for the Great Wall Trekking Challenge also gave me the impetus to join my local Slimming World and change my lifestyle for the better. Since then I've lost four and a half stone!
The trek itself was challenging due to the number of steps we walked up and down each day but the highlight was definitely conquering the 1,000 steps up the Wall at Mutianyu, culminating in the ascent of the 'Heavenly Ladder' – where we got a medal for finishing the journey. Reaching the summit was a very emotional moment, and one I will treasure forever.
I come from an RAF family, I'm married to a serving airman and I work alongside service personnel so I see first hand how the RAF Benevolent Fund support the RAF Family so I just wanted to give something back.
I'd initially hoped to raise £2,500 for the Fund, but through arranging various fundraising activities, like a raffle, pub quiz and bake sale, I've raised a total of £6,500 for the charity, which I'm really thrilled about.