Students tackle wheelchair railway line challenge

Aeden Kennaugh, foreground, Reece Moffitt travel from Douglas to Peel along the old railway line to raise money for the Pahar Trust

Aeden Kennaugh, foreground, Reece Moffitt travel from Douglas to Peel along the old railway line to raise money for the Pahar Trust

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Two Isle of Man College students undertook a charity trek from one side of the island to the other last week, travelling from Douglas to Peel along the old railway line.

And on the face of it, it doesn’t sound much of a challenge, as many people walk the line every day quite happily.

What made this trek so special and difficult is that both Aeden Kennaugh, 18, from Castletown, and Reece Moffitt, 17, from Willaston, both suffer from the muscle wasting condition Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy and are both in wheelchairs.

Aeden and Reece, accompanied by Ben O’Hare and James Bettridge from the college, set off at 9.30am from the Nunnery grounds, and from there made their way to the old railway Line.

The first few miles of track have been relaid to a relatively smooth level, which meant that they were able to make good progress initially. Their powered wheelchairs are able to travel at around 4mph in good conditions, and between Douglas and Glen Vine, they made good time.

However, as the journey wore on, and the track became rougher, the boys found the going extremely hard and painful.

The nature of their condition means they tire easily, and the constant jolting and bouncing caused them a great deal of pain and discomfort.

Also, it took a lot of skill and concentration to be able to retain control of the wheelchairs over such terrain.

While taking a break at St John’s, Reece said: ‘Its very difficult and challenging.

‘The most difficult bit is just getting over all the bumps. It’s quite tiring and shakes all our bodies. It’s also very hot. We have to drink plenty of water. But it is good fun.’

Aeden said: ‘I’m finding it difficult really, because of all the bumps, and we get really tired easily.

Although they started early, the pair knew the journey would take all day.

They were forced to take frequent breaks and the limited battery life of the chairs meant that they were forced to stop for an hour to literally recharge the batteries.

After rejoining the line, more difficulties presented themselves: gates were locked, meaning that they had to squeeze through kissing gates and they also came across a boggy stretch near the Raggatt, just outside Peel.

This proved impassable for the chairs, and they were reluctantly forced to leave the line and complete the journey on the road.

They eventually reached the House of Mannanan at 6.30pm, nine hours after setting off.

Both were left sore and drained at the end of the 12 mile trek. Aeden needed strapping on his left arm to relieve the pain of the constant jolting, and an exhausted Reece went straight home to a well earned rest.

‘I’m OK now I’ve finished,’ said a visibly tired, yet delighted, Aeden. ‘But it is a bit painful. At the start I did think it would be possible to complete it, but as we went on it became more difficult. We just carried on until the end.’

The challenge helped raise money for the Pahar Trust Nepal, in support of schools for students with disabilities.

They had aimed to raise £500, but have since decided to try and raise £100 per mile they covered. So far the boys have raised almost £1,000.

If you would like to sponsor Aeden and Reece, visit www.justgiving.com/IsleofMan PowerchairChallenge

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