Warwick and Leamington reporter ‘continues dad’s legacy’ with year of challenges

Kirstie Smith (centre) celebrating reaching the end of her challenge year with her friends Jo Drinkwater (left) and James Bartlett (right).
Kirstie Smith (centre) celebrating reaching the end of her challenge year with her friends Jo Drinkwater (left) and James Bartlett (right).

Courier and Weekly News reporter Kirstie Smith has just completed a year of challenges in memory of her dad, Malcolm. In her own words, she reflects back on an amazing 12 months in which she raised more than £5,000 for Bowel Cancer UK.

Over the last year my life has been a bit of a rollercoaster.

Kirstie with her uncle Julian Smith after finishing the Cardiff Half Marathon.

Kirstie with her uncle Julian Smith after finishing the Cardiff Half Marathon.

Before November 10 2017 I was not thrill-seeker or adventurer looking for their next challenge – in fact I was the complete opposite – but I decided to push myself to my limits and force myself to face some of my fears all in memory of my dad.

My dad, Malcolm Smith, was just 50 when he died of bowel cancer in May 2016 and losing him has left a hole in all of my family’s hearts.

When the first anniversary of his death came and went I realised that I needed to do something for dad. To me and my sister he was our hero and he would do anything for anyone even when it meant running into a burning house to try and save the person inside.

Over his lifetime – despite being cut short – my dad created a true legacy and I wanted to keep it going but I just didn’t know how. I wanted to do something special in his memory and it wasn’t until I met Steve Atherton from Warwick that I found what I had been looking for.

Kirstie with members of Moreton Angling Club (her dad's former fishing club) after completing her fishing challenge.

Kirstie with members of Moreton Angling Club (her dad's former fishing club) after completing her fishing challenge.

In this job you come across so many amazing people doing so many amazing things. I had been writing stories about Steve completing 56 challenges for the year he was 56 to raise awareness of the homelessness issue in the Warwick district and to also raise money for the local homeless charities.

Steve had been inspired by someone else doing a challenge ‘bucket list’ and having covered Steve’s challenges he in turn inspired me.

I decided to take on 25 challenges for the year that I was 25 in aid of Bowel Cancer UK in memory of dad.

As well as continuing dad’s legacy and raising money for charity this was also a way to help me.

Kirstie and her partner and friends after completing the Five Valleys Walk challenge.''Left to right: David Beale, James Bartlett, Jo Drinkwater, Matt Coulton and Kisrtie Smith

Kirstie and her partner and friends after completing the Five Valleys Walk challenge.''Left to right: David Beale, James Bartlett, Jo Drinkwater, Matt Coulton and Kisrtie Smith

My birthday is the day before my dad’s and the first one after he died 2016 was so tough and I did not feel like celebrating at all. In a bid to change how it felt around our birthdays I decided to kick my challenge year off on dad’s birthday, November 10 2017.

The challenges saw me, my partner Matt and a lot of my friends and family take on tasks that we never thought we would do. Before this year I was a chicken. I was scared of heights, needles and doing anything that made me go out of my comfort zone.

And despite wanting to walk away from some of the challenges I persevered on because it was all in dad’s name.

Thanks to everyone’s support I completed my 25 challenges and an extra one for good measure, which mentally and physically pushed me including a Wolf Run, donating blood for the first time, the Cardiff Half Marathon and giving up alcohol for a whole year.

If you had told me three years ago I would complete a half marathon I probably would have laughed in your face and said something involving a swear word or two.

After taking on these challenges I can’t say whether or not I am any less of a scaredy-cat but I now know that I can do a lot more than I previously thought I was capable of.

In celebration of the year I held a party and raffle and thanks to the generosity of businesses I had some amazing prizes including a signed Manchester United pennant (my dad was a big Man United fan!).

Thanks to everyone donating money over the last year and buying raffle tickets, I was able to more than double my initial target and my current fundraising total now stands at £5,280, which is just amazing.

I would like to say a big thank you to everyone who has donated and supported me, especially to my family and friends who joined me on my challenges. I think my dad would have been amazed at how much was raised in his memory and I really hope I have made him proud this last year.

This year was about continuing my dad’s legacy but it was also a way to turn something that was so heartbreaking and crippling into something positive.

Supporting Bowel Cancer UK and doing amazing things to continue dad’s legacy will now always be a big part of my life. I will continue fundraising in dad’s name in the hopes that another family won’t have to go through the heartbreak we have.

To donate to Kirstie’s fundraising page click here

The full list of Kirstie’s challenges:

1) Donate blood for the first time

2) No alcohol for the entire year

3) The Cardiff Half Marathon

4) A Wolf Run

5) A Race For Life event

6) A 25-mile cycle ride

7) Climb Mt. Snowdon

8 ) Indoor Skydive

9) Swimming relay

10) Do 25 ‘kind things’

11) The five valleys walk

12) Tattoo in memory of dad

13) Go down a zipline

14) Get trained in CPR and get 24 other people trained

15) Do the inflatable 5K obstacle run

16) Go fishing or take part in a fishing match or event

17) Take a vow of silence for 25 hours

18) Organise and take part in family and friends five-a-side football match

19) Take on ‘The Beast’ inflatable course at NEC

20) Go on the donor list

21) Go vegetarian for one month

22) Take on a high ropes adventure course

23) Northleach 10k Run

24) Water obstacle course at Cotswold Water Park

25) Give up chocolate for a month

26) Do the Severn Bridge Park Run