For New Year Imogen Leith, known as Immy, set herself a target.
The Bridgnorth youngster wanted a challenge – and to help the Severn Hospice, which had cared for her mum Kerry, who died last June after being diagnosed with mouth cancer.
Immy persuaded her dad Richard, 42, that she would walk the distance from John o’Groats to Lands End, some 874 miles, ticking off the distance bit by bit.
As she ploughed on with her efforts, joined by her father, and her 12-year-old brother Josh and 21-year-old sister Rebecca, the total passed its target.
But, after appearing in local and national media last weekend, Immy’s efforts captured the hearts of the public, and led to an outpouring of generosity, sending the total soaring to £21,395, in a matter of days.
Richard said the whole family had been stunned by the reaction, and added that the kindness had stood out as people across the country continue to deal with their own struggles amid lockdown and a global pandemic.
He has also spoken of his pride at Immy’s determination, and of her brother and sister in supporting her.
He said: “It has been so heart warming. The comments are just so lovely and it has been such a dark time with people beleaguered by lockdown and all of a sudden you have this kindness. I am just super-proud. I just don’t think I could be any more proud of this bunch.
“Most of the time in your life you can relate to your kids because you have been through it, but with this my parents are still alive, they’re in their late 70s and it is really difficult to put yourself in their position. You are wondering how they will react and when they show that level of resilience, it is incredible, you beam with pride and I know Kerry would be incredibly proud of them.”
Richard said the idea for the challenge had come about as they discussed New Year’s resolutions.
He said: “I was sat there and said what about New Year’s resolutions and Immy said ‘but you never keep them’.
“Kerry always said ‘I don’t know why you bother, you never keep them’, so I finally said this year I would bother and Immy said ‘let’s do a challenge’.”
He added: “It has been brilliant for all of us as a family. I have lost a stone and two pounds. Doing all of that as a family it has bonded us closer together. We have always been close but we talk about more things while we are walking, being able to turn off the electronics and you have time to reflect on things.”
Richard said they had been astounded by people’s kindness.
He said: “We have been looking at it thinking we can’t quite believe it. There was a guy yesterday who gave £500 anonymously.
“There was someone else who gave £2 and said ‘I am sorry I don’t have more at the moment and this is all I can spare’, for Immy that meant so much. The human kindness echoes what we experienced from the hospice, which is a staggering level of care. I don’t know what I expected but they were phenomenal.”
Richard said the support they had offered to Kerry, and the family, had been invaluable.
He said: “There was never any time limit with them, it was just whatever we needed. It was like that for every single one of their team.
“They were brilliant in a setting where you are totally powerless and they gave you that bit of power – making that person you love comfortable and they make that happen.
“I had to ring them at two in the morning once and they were there in half an hour.
“There was a time where I hadn’t slept for about 72 hours and the nurse said ‘you look tired, you need some rest’ so they put someone in overnight. The spectrum of what they do is incredible.”