Laura Roantree, who grew up on the Costa del Sol, has recently returned from Tanzania after successfully climbing Mount Kilimanjaro as part of a charity hike for the Meningitis Research Foundation. She raised a total of €3,174 for the charity and also wants to continue to raise awareness of this disease, which affects more than 2.5 million people each year.
She was sponsored by Specsavers Ópticas in Fuengirola, who donated €500 at the very start of her fundraising campaign. She also raised over €1,000 through a virtual walk during the lockdown, where 75 people walked 1,197,239 steps and donated to the cause. This combined with raffles, quizzes with friends, and a coffee morning enabled her to reach her total of €3,174.
Laura hadn’t been aware of the issues caused by meningitis before she joined the challenge, but was amazed when she started to research into it ahead of the climb. “I think the fact that I did not know a lot about the charity or meningitis itself highlights the help that they need in raising awareness and funds. It was only when I joined the challenge that I was told about the effects meningitis has on families and how serious it can be.
In reaching out on social media as part of my fundraising, I had a classmate from college tell me about how she had dealt with septicemia (caused by the same bacteria as meningitis) in the first year of her degree. She spoke of how glad she was that we were raising awareness given that her experience showed her how little people knew of her condition. For me, this was another eye-opener into how these illnesses are affecting people and how important the work the Meningitis Research Foundation are doing really is – they hope to see Meningitis defeated by 2030!”
Judy Borland, Store Director of Specsavers Ópticas in Fuengirola explained why they got involved with this challenge, “Laura is the daughter of our close friends and went to school with our son at EIC and their whole family has done a lot for charity in the past. We were truly inspired and humbled by the case of local girl Sarah Almagro, who lost her hands and feet due to meningococcal meningitis, but thanks to a fundraising campaign were able to get a prosthesis and since then has become the Spanish national champion of adapted surfing. This story really made us realize how serious meningitis can be and so we were so happy to be able to donate 500€ to help Laura exceed her target and spread the word about meningitis.”
Laura and her group of 14 students from universities across Ireland spent six days on the mountain. They walked 7-8 hours every day to reach the peak, 5895 metres above sea level, and quickly returned to basecamp to minimize the effects of the altitude. She said that although the hiking itself isn’t too difficult and the pace is quite easy, the altitude presents significant challenges, leading to many members of the group experiencing headaches, nausea, and low energy. The biggest challenge was the final summit ascent, undertaken at night, in freezing temperatures, and using head torches to light the way. Laura said that arriving at the summit as the sun came up, was an incredible feeling and that the challenge of the ascent makes her very proud to be able to say that she summited Africa’s tallest mountain.
She explains, “The experience of climbing Kilimanjaro was amazing! The views are breathtaking, the local guides and porters are extremely friendly and welcoming and the feeling of working towards the summit is so rewarding.
I honestly cannot thank my supporters enough. I appreciate each and every person that donated. Firstly, you helped an incredible cause and participated in the campaign to bring an end to meningitis by 2030. But personally, there is also a more selfish thank you that has to be made. These climbs are organized to encourage people to help wonderful charities, but I also got to actually do the climb and it was such an incredible experience. I feel very lucky to have been able to do it whilst helping others and this was only made possible by everyone’s immense generosity.”
You can find out more about meningitis and how you can support this cause by visiting the Meningitis Research Foundation website www.meningitis.org