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Seven Stations Challenge aims to raise £5,000 for charity 21 February 2008

Fire fighters throughout the British Isles are being challenged to take part in a 50 miles walk in the Isle of Man and, at the same time, raise money for their National Benevolent Fund.

The inaugural Seven Stations Challenge was held last year but the 2008 event is being named as the Sara Killey Memorial Walk in honour of the Isle of Man Division’s Fire Safety Secretary who died in October after 20 years service. Her husband Peter is a leading fire fighter at Douglas and their daughter Sophie will set the walkers on their way from Port Erin station in the south of the Island.

From there the route takes them around the remaining stations – Castletown, Peel, Kirk Michael, Ramsey and Laxey with a finish at Douglas. Entry fee of £15 goes to the Benevolent Fund but, in addition, walkers are free to obtain sponsorship for their favourite charities. At the moment, the event is non-competitive but participants receive certificates stating how many miles they completed and their time up to that point. These will be distributed at a special presentation evening.

Fund raising manager for the charity in the Isle of Man, Mary Cannell, said:

‘When we launched the Challenge last year it was very much a low-key affair but we still raised £2,000 largely through support from Manx fire fighters and local residents. This time round we are throwing it open to anyone from the UK, or even further afield, who wants to take part and have set ourselves a target of £5,000. We are expecting good support from our colleagues in Britain and if there is sufficient response we may consider turning it into a competition between the various fire stations. We are keeping our options open.
One of the biggest events on the Island’s sporting calendar is the 85 miles Parish Walk which is held in June and which always receives television coverage with well over 1,000 competitors. Many of the participants in last year’s Seven Stations Challenge in April used it as a training session to tune up for the Parish Walk and that will probably happen this time as well but you do not have to be a seasoned walker to get involved – you can go as far as you want.’

The Seven Stations Challenge – organised under international race walking rules - attracted an entry of 136 last year with 45 people completing the full 50 miles distance. However, a much bigger entry is anticipated in 2008. Virtually all the Isle of Man fire fighting personnel were involved in some way either as competitors, marshals or providing back-up. With many of the marshals being ‘on call’ the organisers arranged for a back-up team – complete with mini bus – ready to be drafted in at a moment’s notice if anyone had to attend to an emergency.

The event is being enthusiastically supported by the Island’s Department of Tourism and Leisure. Tourism Minister Adrian Earnshaw said:

‘I think it has tremendous potential. Fire fighters around the UK pride themselves on their fitness and this is an excellent way of testing themselves against colleagues from other divisions. ‘There is also a benefit for tourism generally because it is a perfect way of seeing the Manx countryside at a beautiful time of year. My hope is that competitors will come for the weekend and see something of what the Island has to offer before they return home. It might persuade first-time visitors to come back for a longer stay.’

Sunday April 6th is the date for the 2008 Seven Stations Challenge with competitors leaving Port Erin at 8 a.m. There is a minimum age limit of 18 and the only other stipulation is that walkers have to have reached the penultimate station, Laxey, by 7pm in order to take on the final eight miles stretch to the finish at Douglas. Entry forms, or further details can be found at www.iomfire.com/walk.htm and the closing date for entries is March 26th. Mary Cannell can also be contacted on 01624 647308.

The Fire Services National Benevolent Fund is a registered charity which operates both in the Isle of Man and UK. It helps serving and retired fire fighters and their families through the provision of sheltered accommodation, recuperative facilities, rehabilitation and therapy.

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