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It was one of those moments when, relaxed by a glass or two of wine, he put his name forward for a trip that was to test every fibre of his being.
George decided to go one step further than offering sponsorship to TV presenter Helen Fospero when she announced she was going to lead a trek in the Arctic in aid of Barnardo’s. George was at the Hull Daily Mail Business Awards last November when host Ms Fospero asked for support from the firms in attendance. He set himself the challenge of a lifetime by signing up for the Finland adventure himself.
“It was my birthday the day we set off,” said George. “It was certainly the first time I’d spent a birthday like that, and not something I’d usually do. “If I have got away on my birthday before, it will have been to a five-star hotel and not to a hut with bunks and a group of other people. “But we did celebrate it, and I did get a birthday cake.” The trip was organised by Discover Adventure and the itinerary included cross-country skiing, showshoe walking and husky sledding, all based around the unspoilt region of Kuusamo, in northeastern Finland.
“The first thing we saw when we came out of the airport was the Northern Lights –people book trips specially for this and never get to see them. “We were really staying in the wilderness and it wasn’t so much the cold that struck me but the amount of snow. “When you were walking in the soft stuff, it was deep as the height of a man.”
When it came to cross-country skiing, George was a complete novice at, he said he found it exhausting. “It was difficult and there were a number of tumbles. You used a lot of energy getting back up again. “They took us down to a frozen lake and there had been a smattering of new snow, which wasn’t as easy to move around on as the ice. “The next day was trekking in snowshoes and that was extremely exhausting as you were sinking so deep and lifting your legs so high to get through it –most of us were suffering with that one. ”
The biggest scare of the trip came when the trekkers each set about building a quinzee –a type of igloo –which they were planning to sleep in. “One of the girls had hers collapse in on her and it wasn’t funny at all. “We had to dig her out and she was a bit upset for a while. “They decided the consistency of the snow wasn’t right for us to be able to sleep in them.”
George is only too pleased he undertook training for three months before the trip in preparation. “I don’t think I would have got through it without that,” he said. But what delights him even more is the response to his fundraising endeavours – he set himself a target of £3,000 and found the total on his return was more than £4,500, donated by local businesses and well-wishers “I feel quite humble about it really,” he said. “I am amazed people have donated so much money.”
Altogether, the Arctic venture has raised more than £14,500 for the children’s charity. “You think people are your friends, but you don’t actually realise how much they are behind you. “It makes you feel good about yourself that you have done it and that there have been so many generous donations –even from people from the past who you have not seen for a while. “It has been quite emotional really. “Everyone has played a part, including the staff of KRL. It has been a team effort.”
George would like to thank everyone who generously donated to Barnardo’s.