Brave trek will raise thousands for hospice

John and Francesca at the start point on the Mexican border
John and Francesca at the start point on the Mexican border

A married couple have set off on the challenge of a lifetime – a 2,660 mile trek from Mexico to Canada to raise money for St Barnabas House.

Francesca and John Roberts set off on April 7 for the trek in memory of Francesca’s father, Ian Aitken, who lived in Worthing.

Francesca said: “My husband and I married on September 1, 2016, which I think was one of my dad’s favourite days. Looking back at the pictures and videos of him walking down the aisle, the smile on his face, is priceless.

“Unfortunately, the next time we saw him when we got back from our honeymoon, he was given the news that he had terminal cancer and only a few months to live.

“The cancer had spread from his pancreas to his liver, to his lungs and was only found when he had a brain tumour, which affected his co-ordination, speech and understanding.”

Ian spent his final days being cared for by the Worthing hospice, before passing away on February 13 2017. Francesca has calculated that her father’s stay cost £13,000.

Francesca, 30, was born in Shoreham and lived in Thakeham and Ashington before going away to university. She now lives in Buckingham with John, 37, who comes from Wolverhampton. The couple are hoping to raise £10,000.

Francesca added: “The care the nurses and doctors gave him during his three-week stay was most astounding to witness. It was given with such compassion, respect and the utmost control to ensure his dignity in his last moments here.

“Death can’t be a comfortable experience and when it is long and drawn out I can’t think of any other way I would like to be cared for, especially if I can’t do things for myself any more.”

Francesca and John took six months off work to walk the full length of the Pacific Crest Trail and hope to reach their destination in September.

Francesca said: “We will be carrying all of our gear and walking equipment, stopping in towns roughly once a week to resupply.

“The route will take us through the desert and then over the high Sierras, which will include a climb of Mount Whitney, America’s highest mountain. The trail ends eight miles over the border to Canada in Manning Park.”

They hope each person will sponsor them £26.60, 1p for every mile they cover on the journey. Visit www.justgiving.com/francesca-aitken to donate.