Council chairman set for 820-mile trek through deserts, mountains and the Grand Canyon in aid of Holt girl and Thursford church
Forty days and 40 nights of trekking through deserts, over mountain ranges and through the Grand Canyon await an intrepid Norfolk parish council chairman.
Jeremy Bolam, 53, who is flying to America on Monday to take on the newly-completed 820-mile Arizona Trail, said: 'There may also be rattlesnakes and bears but I'm hoping they will be hiding away at this time of year.'
Mr Bolam, chairman of Thursford Parish Council, is attempting this challenge of a lifetime to raise money for treatment to help Edith Creasey, three, from Holt, who has quadriplegic cerebral palsy and for St Andrew's Church in Thursford.
Mr Bolam, who runs and lives at Holly Lodge Guesthouse in Thursford, has been doing ultra races since 1997.
He has competed in the famous Marathon des Sables, running 156 miles across the Sahara Desert, and the Mont-Blanc Ultra Marathon in the Alps, but says the Arizona Trail will be his toughest challenge yet.
He said: 'It will be very hard. I will be doing a total of 93,000ft of climbing over five mountain ranges. The temperature will be up in the 80s going through the deserts and around freezing in the mountains and I will be carrying a heavy back pack the whole time.
'I will be out in the wilderness for several weeks and will have to manage my food and water supplies carefully. There will be small settlements for me to stock up along the way but I will often be going for three or four days in total wilderness. I have calculated that at one point I will be in the wilderness for eight days.
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'The hardest thing will be for me to keep going day in, day out. I will have to cover an average of 20 miles per day and I have not scheduled in any rest periods.
'Who knows, there may also be rattlesnakes and bears but it's not something I'm thinking about too much and I hope they will be in hiding away at this time of year.'
The Arizona Trail starts at Coronado National Memorial near the US-Mexico border and Mr Bolam will walk past, but not through, Tuscon, Phoenix and Flagstaff, before walking through the middle of the Grand Canyon and finishing at the Utah border.
Mr Bolam will be walking with the Arizona Trail Association and is due to start on February 19. He has booked a flight home on April 2.
He said: 'I hope to be finished on April Fool's Day, which is very appropriate really. My wife and my friends and family all think I'm bonkers.
'But to me, this is what it's all about. I'll be out in the wilderness for several weeks, miles away from televisions and radios, setting up camp each night. It will be amazing. I will be pushing myself physically and mentally but I don't give up easily.
'I've been training for about a year, working out in the gym in Bodham also walking instead of driving to places like Holt when I've needed to pick up some shopping.'
Mr Bolam hopes to raise between �3,000 and �4,000.
He said: 'I have known Edith's family for many years and they are really nice people. When I heard about Edith's plight I wanted to do something to help her.'
Young Edith was born 10 weeks premature and suffered an extensive bleed on her brain.
She can not sit unaided or walk and can not move anywhere independently. She has very limited use of her right arm and poor head control. She cannot feed herself and needs help with many things.
She lives with her parents Sean and Ruth and her brother Adam, six, on Peacock Lane, Holt.
Adam was also born premature and has a mild form of cerebral palsy which does not effect his daily life.
The Creasey family are spending thousands of pounds on physiotherapy for Edith and she is regularly treated in Oxford and London.
Mr Creasey, who is head chef at The Dun Cow in Salthouse, cycled from Holt to the Bobath Centre in north London, where Edith is treated, last year, to raise money for her treatment.
Mrs Creasey does not work and is a full-time carer for her daughter.
Mr Creasey said: 'Edith is making progress, though it is very slow. She will never be able to walk unaided completely but we hope, one day, that she will be able to live an independent life.
'Despite her physical problems she is a very bright girl with a great sense of humour. She absolutely adores her brother and I am so proud of her every single day.
'We are trying to push her as much as we can and to get her as much physiotherapy as possible because it does make a difference.
'I am really touched that Jeremy is raising money for her by doing this Arizona Walk.'
The Creasey family are hopeful that Edith will be able to start at Holt Primary School in September.
Mr Bolam is also raising money for a group called the Friends of St Andrew's Church in Thursford which is striving to raise �100,000 for a new roof and some electrical work at the church.
Mr Bolam said: 'The whole community in Thursford, not just people who go to the church, has come together to restore this wonderful old building and to ensure that it can be appreciated by future generations.'
Anyone wishing to sponsor Mr Bolam can do so by going to www.justgiving.com/Jeremy-Bolam1