50 brave Cadets completed the grueling challenge of walking a total of 800 miles in the cold and rain over the weekend of the 25th and 26th of March. The Cadets were inspired by the 700-mile barefoot march from Land’s End to Edinburgh by Major Chris Brannigan, also known as the Barefoot Solider, who completed the unthinkable challenge in 35 days over the summer of 2020, as covered by all the national press, and has resulted in Chris becoming winning a Pride of Britain award winner.
The Cadets commenced the challenge at 10AM on Saturday 25 March and didn’t complete the final lap until 10AM on Sunday 26th of March. To meet the target 800 miles, the cadets had to complete a total of 3,200 laps of the Brakenhale School athletics track, and they tracked their progress by collecting one of 3,200 beads each time they completed a lap. On average, each Cadet had to complete 64 laps of the track; an incredible 16 miles per Cadet.
“Six months ago, I put forward the idea of this challenge to my cadets to support Hope for Hasti and without hesitation they all agreed. We, as a CCF unit, have seen the highs and lows that Major Chris Brannigan and his family have been through to try and bring awareness for this extremely rare condition into the mainstream media, so to be able to support Hasti and raise the awareness of CdLS in our area was something both cadets and instructors were enthusiastic to do. When you plan an event like this you hope that you can hit your sponsorship target but we are are blown away by the support we have received and to be able to raise over £3,700 is outstanding”, said Capt. Andrew Bury, Contingent Commander.
The future for Hasti is uncertain unless a treatment is found, and it is a race against time to raise the funding needed. “The support we’ve received so far has been incredible, and we know can’t achieve the goal on our own – every penny is vital to raise the money needed to fund the research and, hopefully, a treatment for CdLS. I’m incredibly grateful to the Cadets for giving up their time and having such courage to face this challenge – it’s certainly not easy and it was a real privilege to be able to join them for this event, it certainly is easy! They are doing this for my little girl and for other children with CdLS; they are genuine heroes.” said Major Chris Brannigan.
Despite the cold and the rain faced by the Cadets and the Instructors, their enthusiasm never waned. Cadets walked, skipped, ran, and in one case, walked with crutches around the track throughout the day. As this was a 24-hour challenge, the Cadets pitched their tents on the school playing fields over night and Mums and Dads visited in the evening to check their progress and to deliver their dinner. Kabirs Restaurant, Crowthorne very kindly donated a delicious dinner to the Instructors who planned and delivered the event. Brakenhale School CCF were also supported by other local companies such as Splitz Facilities who kindly loaned generators and heaters so that everyone could keep warm despite the inclement weather, SF Embroidery who donated their services for printing of the T-shirts worn by the cadets, and Willerby Roofing & Exteriors Ltd who provided shelters.
Chris and his wife Hengameh have been fundraising for three years for their daughter, Hasti, who was diagnosed with a debilitating and rare genetic condition, Cornelia de Lange Syndrome (CdLS), and for which there are currently no treatments. They have been raising funds for research into a potential gene therapy which can offer hope and significant improvement in the quality of life for those living with CdLS. The Hope For Hasti charity was set up to raise money and to start the research and clinical trial into a gene therapy treatment for CdLS. At present, Chris and his wife are half way to reaching their goal of £2.5 million to fund a treatment. The research phase has now commenced and is being conducted by The Jackson Laboratory, a world leader in mammalian genetics and human genomics research.