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Mia, 12, climbing stairs to Everest for Queen’s Hospital charity which cared for late grandmother

PUBLISHED: 12:00 17 July 2020

Christine Kendall, pictured with granddaughters Mia and Erin Potgieter (L-R), died in June after a long battle with cancer. Mia is completing a mountain stair climb to raise funds for the nurses and volunteers from the Sunflower Suite who cared for her grandmother. Picture: Hannah Potgieter

Christine Kendall, pictured with granddaughters Mia and Erin Potgieter (L-R), died in June after a long battle with cancer. Mia is completing a mountain stair climb to raise funds for the nurses and volunteers from the Sunflower Suite who cared for her grandmother. Picture: Hannah Potgieter

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Christine Kendall was her family’s biggest cheerleader.

The Harold Hill resident was a rock to husband Alan and daughter Hannah, and the biggest champion of granddaughters Mia, 12 and Erin, 10.

She passed away last month after a long battle with cancer; in her honour, 12-year-old Mia Potgieter is climbing the stairs to Everest for the charity who helped care for her grandmother during her illness.

The Recorder caught up with Mia and mum Hannah after day five to discuss nanny Christine, sore calves, and the importance of completing this challenge for the Sunflower Suite at Queen’s Hospital, Romford.

An initial target of £250 was set.

Hit that, and Mia would climb the stairs 678 times to reach the peak of Ben Nevis.

Hit £500, and Mia would climb 2,340 times to reach Mount Blanc.

By day ten, she had smashed both by raising £1,100, an impressive 440 per cent of the original target.

Now both Mia and Hannah have bigger fish to fry.

If the fundraiser reaches £1,500, Mia will climb the stairs 2,976 times to reach the top of Kilimanjaro; £2,000, and she will take on Everest.

When asked about climbing the stairs a daunting 4,467 times, Mia is determined: “I want to do it! My calves are sore, but I want to keep going.”

By day ten, Mia had scaled the stairs 840 times, as she heads toward the peak of Mount Blanc.

Originally they intended for Mia to do around 80 daily climbs for 35 days, taking her to roughly 2,800 steps.

The ambition to climb Everest has prompted a rethink, though Mia is unfazed.

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She wants to climb for Christine, who died on June 13, little more than a month after her 70th birthday: “I miss her so much every day and I would like to raise money for the Sunflower Suite as a way of saying thank you for everything that they did to help our family during such a traumatic time.”

Christine was diagnosed with bowel cancer five years ago, when she was 65 and Mia was seven.

Though this blighted her final years; the battle was made easier by the nurses and volunteers in the suite, whose kindness and compassion left a lasting mark on the entire family.

Hannah explains how they helped a young Mia adjust to what was happening: “They would come, sit with Mia and just chat with her. Even though they were busy, they always made time. The way it’s set up is just brilliant.”

The nurses also soothed Christine’s fears over starting chemotherapy, making a scary prospect as manageable as possible.

Hannah also speaks glowingly of the volunteers, who would keep the family stocked up on tea, biscuits and positivity.

This positivity worked both ways, according to Hannah: “They would always sit my mum next to new people to put them at ease — she had such a nice smile.”

Christine’s impact was reflected in the sadness that greeted her death, “the nurses can’t get attached, but some did reach out to express condolences”, says Hannah.

This fundraiser is for them.

It’s also something that makes Hannah incredibly proud as a mother: “When we knew mum didn’t have much longer left, Mia was already starting to think about how she could give back.”

Despite facing the loss of her beloved nanny, Mia was thinking about what she could do to say thank you.

Though Christine celebrated one big milestone before she died, she just missed another.

The Friday after she died, June 19, would have been her 38th wedding anniversary with husband Alan.

Hannah reveals that they’ve kept this interview a secret from Alan, hoping that he gets a wonderful surprise when he opens the Recorder this week.

If Christine were here now, no doubt she would be perched atop the stairs spurring her granddaughter on; there would be no need for motivational music with cheerleader Christine around, laughs Mia.

To donate to Mia’s climb, visit www.justgiving.com/fundraising/mia-potgieter.


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