An adventurous grandson has climbed Africa's highest free-standing mountain to raise awareness of dementia.
Intrepid Connor Georgeson scaled Mount Kilimanjaro in honour of his grandmother Margaret Dunkley, 81, a popular former pub landlady who suffers from the devestating condition.
The 22-year-old, from Boldon Colliery, scaled Kilimanjaro – the world’s highest free-standing mountain – as a tribute to Margaret Dunkley, 81.
Connor's gruelling challenge, which took a week to complete, has already raised more than £6,000 for Alzheimer’s Society, with the possibility of more money coming in.
Margaret, from South Shields, was diagnosed with dementia 10 years ago and now lives in a care home in Hebburn.
Connor said: "I’ve always been close to grandma and, because of her condition, I really wanted to do something for Alzheimer’s Society.
“Climbing Mount Kilimanjaro was the toughest physical as well as mental challenge of my life. At times I felt like giving up but keeping both my grandma and mam in mind kept me going.
“I wanted to make them proud, along with friends and family who have supported and sponsored me. I felt like I owed it to them to make it to the top.”
Connor’s mother Marie Georgeson, 44, said: “Connor is such a loving, kind, thoughtful and compassionate young man – I am proud to call him my son.
“What he has done is amazing. It was a really tough five-day climb followed by another two days to get back – a third of those who took part didn’t complete it due to the intensity of the climb and altitude problems.”
She added: "Connor is really close to his grandmother and wanted to do something special as a way of saying thank you to Alzheimer’s Society.
“I’ve had a lot of support from the charity over the past few years, particularly when it came to the difficult decision of moving my mam from her house to a care home.
“The society’s Dementia Support Worker, Liz Williams, was a godsend. She gave me so much support during an extremely difficult, challenging and emotional time.
“I can honestly say that without her help I’m not sure I would be here today. I now highly recommend Alzheimer’s Society to others who are in a similar position. I felt stuck and alone until I met Liz.”
Margaret was a well-known publican in the region, having run numerous establishments including both the West Park and The Albion, in South Shields, The Cliff, in Roker, Sunderland and the George and Dragon in Durham.
Marie, who has worked in the airline industry for the past 26 years, said: “Mam was a very glamorous landlady, always smartly dressed and made up.
“She was such a warm and sociable person – everyone came to her with their problems.
“Moving her into a home was a difficult decision but the situation had reached a crisis point and in the end it was essential because she wasn’t safe at home.
“I still see mam at least five days a week. I take her out to socialise and do fun things. Trying to maintain a normal life is important.
“If I could give any family member advice about loved ones who have been diagnosed with dementia it would be to show great empathy, don’t correct them, move into their reality and finally to contact Alzheimer’s society for support.
“Sometimes mam mistakes me for her own mam, but I don’t correct her – I play along so as not to upset her. That’s something I learned from Liz and it really works.
“At the end of the day even though she’s in a home and has lived with dementia for around 10 years, she still has her sense of humour and comes out with one-liners that makes her family laugh.
“This is a condition that affects everyone differently – it’s as individual as the person, but it’s important to remember that a life with dementia is still a life and that the person is still there…you just have to search a little harder to find them.”
Lucy King, Alzheimer’s Society Community Fundraiser in the North East, said: “We rely heavily on organisations and individuals alike to help fund research and support services for people living with dementia.
“It’s amazing the lengths people will go to in order to help us raise money and awareness. But I have to say I’m especially impressed with what Connor has done both in term of the effort involved and the fantastic sum he has raised.”
Connor’s Just Giving page can be found at https://www.justgiving.com/fundraising/connor-georgeson