Trekking across the frozen wasteland of northern Finland into the Artic Circle is not everyone’s cup of tea – but for Grant Kelly it was worth every step.
The mental health nursing assistant from Motherwell recently helped to raise £200,000 for a cause very close to his heart – the Glasgow Children’s Hospital Charity.
Grant raised £7000 of the total, with the remainder coming from his 15 fellow intrepid walkers.
And every penny will go to the charity which is helping to save the life of Grant’s 18-month-old daughter Tess, who was born with a faulty heart valve.
Grant said: “I just want to give something back for all the great work the hospital staff have done.
“Individually we had to raise £3500, so I’m really happy that I doubled that.”
The group undertook the sponsored three day walk to the inhospitable northern tip of Finland in January – walking nine hours a day in temperatures as low as minus 40.
“We were in Finland for five days and walking for three of those,” Grant said.
“We had to cross frozen lakes which we also camped out on. It really was out in the wilderness and the temperature varied from minus 20 to minus 40.
“The hardest part for me was the bitter cold. At the end of a long day’s walk we had to put on more clothes than we took off!
“It was hard spending three days in the same clothes but it was all worthwhile in the end helping to raise such an amazing amount of money for the Glasgow Children’s Hospital Charity.”
The hospital has been a tower of strength for the Kelly family – Grant, his wife Claire, their son George (4) and wee Tess.
Grant explained: “Nothing has been too much trouble for the staff.
“But the hospital can only offer things like playrooms for the youngsters because of people who raise funds.”
Grant (37) has always been into fundraising, having run the Edinburgh Marathon in 2009 and the London Marathon in 2012.
And seven years ago he completed a mammoth cycle from Land’s End to John O’Groats for the forerunner of the Glasgow Children’s Hospital Charity – Yorkhill Children’s Hospital.
A cruel twist of fate brought him back to fundraising for the hospital when his daughter Tess was born with a faulty heart valve, also known as aortic stenosis.
Grant said: “I have always done events for charity but after my daughter’s diagnosis I was more determined to do what I could to help raise even more money.
“We were ready to leave hospital after Tess was born but, following routine checks, it was discovered that she had a heart murmur.
“Further investigations revealed the faulty heart valve. In November 2015, when she was only nine weeks old, she had her first open heart surgery.
“The operation to widen the heart value was sadly unsuccessful so in February 2016 she had to have another operation down in Birmingham where they gave her a cow’s heart valve.
“Unfortunately, at her age, there are very few human heart valves available for transplant so they have to use cows or pigs valves.”
Grant managed to raise his Arctic expedition money through sponsorship and other fundraising activities.
One of his most unusual stunts was dressing up as a stormtrooper and collecting money outside the Vue Cinema in Hamilton.
He said: “I am a big Star Wars fan and I got a replica stormtroopers uniform from a guy in Manchester who makes them from a mould.
“It is identical to the ones in the film.
“So I stood outside the cinema rattling a tin – it was great to see how generous people were.”
Grant also set up a Just Giving page; the response from work colleagues and friends was phenomenal.
It was apt timing as Tess is back at the children’s hospital receiving treatment for a bacterial infection in her transplanted valve.
Admitted several weeks ago, the antibiotics now appear to be working.
Grant added: “It was pretty dangerous because the infection was in the transplanted valve.
“But the good news is that she is now reacting well to the antibiotics.
“She will be in hospital for another week, at least, but things appear to be moving in the right direction which is great news.”