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Scottish children’s author Mairi Hedderwick from Beauly praises stroke charity as granddaughter takes on fundraising challenge

By Gregor White

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Kirsty Hedderwick in training.
Kirsty Hedderwick in training.

The granddaughter of the woman behind the renowned Katie Morag stories is taking on a fundraising challenge for Chest Heart & Stroke Scotland.

Kirsty Hedderwick (20), from Beauly, is the granddaughter of renowned Katie Morag author, Mairi Hedderwick.

Tomorrow she will run a 24-hour ultra-marathon to raise vital funds for Chest Heart & Stroke Scotland.

The charity helped Mairi rebuild her life after a serious stroke in 2018 which affected her speech and writing.

She said: "I started feeling embarrassed that I couldn’t speak, write or draw. I thought my entire career was over.

"I spent my life going to schools across Scotland, reading my books to children and talking at public events like book festivals and libraries, and now because of the stroke this was over forever.

"It was a difficult and very unhappy time. I desperately tried to get better and I had a lot of speech and language therapy, but it was slow progress. I found it hard to accept things wouldn’t get back to normal.

"I started to feel miserable. I thought to myself maybe I will never speak to people again. I thought about giving up.

"On top of not being able to write, I also couldn’t draw anymore. I used to illustrate all of my books and loved painting too, so that was very hard to accept."

Of the support she received from the charity she said: "When I first met my stroke volunteer, Mairi, I was feeling miserable and ashamed of myself.

Mairi Hedderwick and granddaughters Elizabeth, Kirsty and Erika.
Mairi Hedderwick and granddaughters Elizabeth, Kirsty and Erika.

"Mairi was the first person I remember meeting who made me smile and see past my stroke. She had actually had a stroke herself too and had dedicated her life to helping others, which I thought was just wonderful.

"I so admired her for what she had chosen to do with her life, her commitment to helping other stroke survivors like me. She helped me accept what had happened and supported me to be positive and not ashamed of my stroke.

"She made me realise having a stroke didn’t mean that was the end of my life.

"I need to accept my writing will not come back and that is hard, but by sharing my story I want to help other people going through the same thing.

"I know I can still do wonderful things with my life, even if I can’t sit and write about the next Katie Morag adventure."

Kirsty will be running a 50 metre circuit around her house in Beauly continuously for 24 hours with just short breaks to eat when required when her sisters will take over doing laps.

She said: "Our Grannie has always taught us the importance of being thankful and that’s what inspired me to do an ultramarathon for Chest Heart & Stroke Scotland.

"I know how important their stroke nurses and volunteers are and their support for my Grannie is what inspired me to run this ultramarathon.

"My Grannie is such a resilient person, and this will keep me running through the night. I also wanted to honour everyone who has been stuck at home or those who, like my Grannie, have been getting through lockdown on their own.

"I’ve only ever done a half marathon before now, so running for 24 hours non-stop in a loop around my house will definitely be a lot to take on!

"I’m feeling excited and nervous about it but I’m determined to do my supporters proud.

"Seeing Grannie and my family cheering me on at the finish line will be an amazing feeling.

"I’ve already raised four times my fundraising target overnight since setting up my Just Giving page and it’s been totally overwhelming. I really hope to raise as much as I can for a charity that’s so special to me, my Grannie and our whole family."

Jane-Claire Judson, chief executive at Chest Heart & Stroke Scotland, said: "Kirsty and Mairi are the embodiment of 'no life half lived'.

"They are both an inspiration and we’re delighted Kirsty is braving this ultra-marathon to raise vital funds to help the services that have been so important to her Grannie.

"It’s only through donations that we can help people like Mairi rebuild their lives after stroke and live their lives to the full.

"We want to continue to be here for stroke survivors who need our help, now and in the future.

"Please get behind Kirsty and Mairi and give what you can today."

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