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Sister of little North Kessock boy afflicted with rare and incurable neurodegenerative condition Batten's disease takes on Sahara trek challenge for charity CHAS

By Alasdair Fraser

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Reece and sister Courtney
Reece and sister Courtney

It is a charity that helps parents and families in their very darkest hours.

No matter what hardships Courtney Brown encounters in the bright and furnace-like Saharan sunshine, she will know every ounce of sweat and toil is worth it.

The 30-year-old NHS worker is set to trek for up to 21 hours through the world’s most dangerous desert to raise funds for Children's Hospices Across Scotland, better known as CHAS.

There is a family motive for the gruelling adventure, but also recent personal, first-hand experience that shed more light on the remarkable work CHAS does.

Courtney recently attended Rachel House, the children’s hospice in Kinross, where she witnessed the charity’s talented and compassionate team assist two families in great distress after losing young ones.

The charity, whose premise is ‘no family should face the death of a child alone’, relies solely on donations to fund staff and facilities in Scotland.

Courtney, who works within the respiratory team based at New Craigs, quickly resolved to join the effort, with the trek scheduled for a six-day round trip from February 21 to 26 next year.

After flying to London from Inverness, there will be an onward connection to Morocco.

“I’m stepping out of my comfort zone,” she said. “CHAS offers vital support to children and families living with life limiting diseases.

Support Courtney's Saharan fundraiser for CHAS here

“After arriving in Marrakech, I will have one night in Ouarzazate and then on day two I will be making my way to M'hamid, which is gateway to the desert.

“Then the challenge will trek into the dunes along the Sahara landscape, where the group will be climbing to the top of the Chigga Dunes (100m), then continuing on through the desert to Erg Arghoual.

Reece and the family together
Reece and the family together

“The challenge will then end by trekking to Sidi Ab Nbi. It will be an experience like nothing I have ever done – although, very rewarding!”

Brother Reece was diagnosed in 2018 with Batten disease, a rare, terminal neurodegenerative disease.

The family have endured heartbreak seeing the once buzz-bomb little lad become increasingly dependent, but always he has been surrounded in the love and care of his mum and siblings, just as the family feel supported by CHAS.

“We have all watched Reece go from being a healthy boy always running around, playing on his trampoline and who had a love for fast cars, motorbikes, fire engines, anything with wheels, to now being fully dependent on my mum for all his care needs," Courtney said.

“And without the care and support from CHAS life would be so much harder, for not only Reece but us all as a family.

“We love our family visits to Rachel House where we are all so well looked after.

“Reece gets to socialise with the other children, while my mum gets a rest from her caring responsibilities.

“We have met some lovely families who we now class as friends and Reece also has the CHAS@home team who are amazing.

Reece and sister Courtney
Reece and sister Courtney

“I see first hand how much CHAS means to so many children and their families, so this is not just for Reece but for all the other children living with a life limiting disease.”

Sister Alexandra (21) is also very supportive of the cause and charity, and their mum Donna Mitchell, from North Kessock, said: “I’m very proud of Courtney for taking on this incredible challenge.

“Reece is a big part of her inspiration, but only one part having seen what CHAS does for so many.

“Courtney is just back from a visit to Rachel House, the children’s hospice in Kinross, and that’s partly what inspired her to do it.

“When we were down at Rachel House, two children had sadly died and that reminded Courtney of just how important CHAS is.

“Being there at the time and seeing the difference the charity makes to bereaved families was so important.

“Without people fundraising, they wouldn’t be able to support all of these families with the wonderful staff they have.

“It is such an incredible charity and yet so many people have never even heard of CHAS.”

You can donate to Courtney's courageous Sahara fundraiser here.

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