Laura Wheater and Jennifer Lonergan, wives of Bolton players present and past, along with Jade Sharp, the partner of Sheffield United striker Billy, are joining forces to raise funds for two causes close to their hearts by climbing Mount Kilimanjaro together this coming August.
The trio, along with five others, will be taking on the challenge of scaling the highest mountain in Africa over five days from August 15 in a bid to fundraise £250,000 for Mind and The Gem Appeal charities.
The decision to support two such causes has been explained by Jennifer, whose husband Andrew played for Wanderers between 2012 and 2015.
“Eleven years ago, we welcomed our daughter Millie into the world,” she explained. “Soon after she was born, after having a routine heel prick test, we found out that she had a rare metabolic condition called Phenylketonuria (PKU).
“Phenylketonuria is a genetic disorder of the metabolism which without treatment can lead to a variety of life-shortening mental and development problems including seizures.
“The Gem Appeal meanwhile was set up in 1994 by mother Karen Johnson whose own two sons were dying from a disorder. Vital research was needed, but like all research it needed vital funding.
“As a result, the charity was formed which helps to raise money for the Willink Unit at the Royal Manchester Children’s Hospital where Millie is treated.
“The research carried out and the improving knowledge for treatment of serious childhood disorders is helping to save lives.
“We want to give something back and hope that the money raised by our challenge will help raise funds to allow the charity to purchase a new machine which will help to save little lives.”
She continued: “Mind meanwhile is another charity which has a deep personal connection to me. In August 2013, I tragically lost my brother to suicide.
“Anthony had suffered with depression for many years and on August 19, the struggle became too much and he took his own life.
“This has had such a devastating impact on all of our family, and so we are extremely passionate about trying to raise awareness and funds to help people who are struggling with any form of mental health issues. Sadly it’s not uncommon and the statistics are frightening.”
Billy Sharp’s wife Jade meanwhile also has her own reasons for taking part in the challenge, as she explains below.
“Mind is a particularly important charity to me as in 2011, my husband and I lost our two-day-old son Luey, to a condition called gastroschisis.
“Whilst Billy was able to get back to normality pretty quickly, I found myself alone daily with aching arms and a nursery missing a baby.
“Quite soon after I felt myself slipping into a pretty dark place - the joy of life had gone and the future for me looked pretty empty.
“Mind provided crucial support for me and helped me get back on track mentally. The support that they provide to people is invaluable, so to be able to climb Mount Kilimanjaro to raise awareness and vital funds to enable them to continue to support people with mental health needs is so important to me.”
Finally, Laura – whose husband David has been on the books of the Whites since January 2011 – said, “I know how much The Gem Appeal and Mind means to our lovely friends Jen and her husband Andrew, and it’s important to me that I support them as much as I can.
“As a full-time mum, climbing Kilimanjaro was a chance to do something different and with it being my 30th this year, I wanted to mark the occasion with something extra special - this opportunity ticked all the boxes!”
To show your support for Laura, Jennifer, Jade and the rest of the team as they aim to raise a quarter of a million pounds, please visit their website (www.250kilimanjaro.co.uk) or donate at www.gofundme.com/team-250-kilimanjaro