Dan & Rachael’s Stories: The West Highland Way

Meet Dan and Rachael:

– Dan first encountered Back Up after he learnt vital wheelchair skills.
– Rachael met Dan on a Back Up ski course
– Together, they took on the West Highland Way to raise money for Back Up

At Back Up, volunteers are at the heart of what we do. Their support means that we can help people across the UK get the most out of life after spinal cord injury.

Two of our fantastic volunteers are Dan and Rachael. They met in 2017 on Back Up’s Colorado ski course. Dan took part to boost his confidence with adaptive sports while having fun on the way – and Rachael was a member of the care team. Since then, they’ve had many adventures together.

Rachael first started volunteering for Back Up in 2014 as a nurse carer on our City Skills course and continues to support our courses today. Our volunteer nurses and PAs are there to enable participants to feel well, comfortable, and fully able to enjoy the course, They also help participants learn new skills to make their life easier at home

Dan first came across Back Up at a wheelchair skills training session in his spinal centre. He is now an active wheelchair skills trainer himself! He teaches the skills and techniques he learned while in hospital to some of the 4,400 people we now know sustain a spinal cord injury every year.

He’s also supported families of people affected by spinal cord injury, speaking about his experience at our relative’s days in hospitals in the UK. Back Up helped Dan rediscover his purpose after spinal cord injury, and we’re glad that he continually chooses to give something back as both a volunteer and a fundraiser.

Dan has taken on many challenges to support Back Up, including our annual challenge event The Push. Last year, he and a team scaled some more mountains – Helvellyn and Skiddaw – within 24 hours! Rachael has also taken part in our Spinal Circuit challenge and regularly attends our annual Back Up Ball.

This year they decided to take on the West Highland Way – a 96 mile challenge from Milngavie near Glasgow to Fort William in the Scottish Highlands. To their knowledge, no one has ever finished this challenge as a manual wheelchair user.

Left – The Team, Right – Dan & Rachael

Rachael said: “I’ve wanted to do the West Highland Way ever since I moved up to Glasgow. Dan and I have tackled a few European city breaks together since we became friends, so when I mentioned the West Highland Way, he was all for it.

“Half a day into the challenge, it was quickly established that the team was way above my fitness level! But, we each brought something to the team and gelled well together for 10 strangers who had never met. A lot of outside-the-box thinking was needed to get past some of the obstacles we faced, but we managed to tackle every challenge that came our way

“We met some lovely people on the route, and raised over £2,500 for Back Up. Completing the Way was an amazing achievement and coming into Fort William put a bit of a spring into our weary steps – it could have been the promise of an actual bed though!”

Dan said: “The hardest part was day three alongside Loch Lomond. It was raining and cold, and the terrain was very challenging. We cut out four miles and got a boat as that particular part would have been impossible with the chair. Between Ardleigh and Beinglas campsite, the back rest on my wheelchair broke, causing big problems with lifting over boulders and rocks.

“My favourite part was the team camaraderie and the section in Inveraran when we were coming up to half way. The sun came out, we dried off and warmed up, and the scenery was beautiful.”

The money raised by these two wonderful Back Up volunteers will make a huge difference . Feeling inspired? Check out our DIY fundraising page to get some tips and ideas. Or get in touch with our fundraising team by emailing Emily or calling her on 020 8875 6774.

Would you be interested in supporting our courses as a nurse or PA like Rachael? Visit this page to get involved.