Inspired by the challenges that the Team of 65 Degrees North have recently achieved despite physical and mental disabilities, a ‘Very Special Band of Mothers’ from all over the UK prepared to take on the epic 24km ‘Fan Dance Challenge’
Despite grey skies and a damp start to the morning the ‘Royal Marines Mums’ were in very high spirits and ready to walk some of the highest mountains in the Brecon Beacons including the iconic Pen y Fan, South Wales’ highest peak.
This infamous route has long been a part of SAS (Special Air Service) and SBS (Special Boat Service) Selection and is considered the yardstick of a candidate’s potential to perform well on Test Week and ultimately pass the Special Forces.
Following introductions to the team and the crew from St John Cymru Wales – Rhayader Division 65DN Team Leader Rich gave everyone a safety briefing and checked kits were in order…. and then they were off!
The mums, all aged from 40 through to 70, are from very different backgrounds and locations but all have one thing in common: their son’s are, or were former Royal Marines Commandos.
Through this common bond they have come together over the last few years and developed firm friendships.
Their story began back in 2010 when many of these mums had lads who were due to deploy to Afghanistan in 2011 on Operation Herrick 14. For most of them this was the first time that their boys had deployed to the front line, so naturally they had worries and questions.
While they were getting support through the Corps, it was felt that a Facebook page was needed exclusively for the mums so they could share all their questions, worries and funny stories about their lads without compromising them in the Corps or in an open forum. In true Royal Marines style they signed their own version of “The Mum’s Official Secret Act!”
That 2011 tour was the foundation for the close bonds that still exist some 5 years later and The Facebook group is as strong as ever as they continue to support each other daily in all areas of their lives.
All the effort the mums have put into training and fundraising for this demanding climb was worth it as each and every one of them completed their individual challenge.
There were tough and emotional moments, sore feet, blisters and aching knees by the end of the walk but in the true ‘Spirit of Adventure’ every single mum had a beaming smile on her face as she crossed the finishing line.
Former Royal Marines Commando and 65DN Expedition Lead Rich, proudly led the group which included his own mum Janice. Rich said: “I am very proud and honoured that this group of ladies wanted to take on this immense challenge and raise money for our Chosen Charity – ‘The Royal Marines Charity’
65 Degrees North aims to inspire and motivate others through the ‘Spirit of Adventure’ and this is a true demonstration of that statement”
65DN team members who also joined the mums included ‘Ice Team’ Doctor Meinir Jones from the Greenland Challenge 2015, and Media Officer Leesa and Danny Claricoates RM who were part of the ‘Conquering Kili’ team which was undertaken to promote disability awareness and recognise the impact of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).
Adventurous challenge has played a key role in Danny’s recovery and he returned home from Kilimanjaro a happier, more confident person. Being part of a dynamic team boosted his morale and motivation and provided an opportunity to speak openly about PTSD. Danny received vast messages of support when he shared his story on social media, but more importantly it got people talking about this ‘invisible disability’. It is vital to de-stigmatise this condition in order for sufferers to seek early diagnosis and treatment.
65DN would like to say a very big THANK YOU to all the mums who embraced this challenge.
We are so proud of you all!