An Oxfordshire nursery manager has been inspired to climb Africa’s tallest mountain after facing a series of personal challenges and heartache.
Gemma, 38, who manages Bright Horizons St Mary’s Day Nursery in Abingdon, will set off on the eight day trek to conquer Kilimanjaro this summer to fundraise for The Bright Horizons Foundation for Children.
Gemma, who lives in Carterton, explains: “The past six years have been really tough. In 2016, at just 32, I was diagnosed with an aggressive form of breast cancer. I had just been promoted to Deputy Manager a few weeks earlier and this news completely floored me. Luckily, it was caught early and after a gruelling 12 months of treatment I was given the all clear and I celebrate my sixth year in remission this year.”
“Then two years ago my Dad was diagnosed with high-grade throat cancer. This hit my family hard and I found it so upsetting watching him go through treatment – knowing first-hand how horrendous it was. I’m incredibly close to my dad, and being told he had cancer affected me more than my own diagnosis. He is a fighter though and he now celebrates almost two years in remission.”
Gemma was dealt a third, devastating blow in March 2022, when her best friend, Andy, was killed in a tragic accident. She spent months after losing him in a sombre state, reliving every challenge she had faced in recent years, and admits it was difficult not to think: ‘What have I done to deserve all of this?’
Gemma continues: “He was my best friend in the whole wide world - he was my ‘person,’ and his death absolutely broke me. After an extremely low period, I finally concluded that life is way too short, tomorrow is never guaranteed and how important it is to live life to the absolute fullest.”
And, proving she hasn’t stopped since, Gemma was crowned the Regional Leader of the Year’ at last year’s Awards of Excellence (AOE), which recognises colleagues that go above and beyond or who have achieved outstanding things in that year.
With a newfound zest for life, Gemma set herself her biggest challenge yet - to take on Kilimanjaro, Africa’s 6,000m high mountain.
Gemma has chosen to fundraise for a charity close to her heart, The Bright Horizons Foundation for Children, which supports children and families by creating ‘Bright Spaces.’ Bright Spaces are warm, safe, enriching play environments located in homeless shelters, domestic violence refuges, hospitals, police stations and prison visits halls and help support vulnerable children affected by domestic violence, parental imprisonment, and ill health.
Denise Priest, Trustee & Director of The Bright Horizons Foundation: “Gemma is an integral part of St Mary’s Day Nursery, and the resilience and strength she has shown over the past few years is admirable. We’ve no doubt that Gemma will conquer this challenge and we’re behind her all the way.
“We also want to express our gratitude to Gemma for choosing to fundraise for Bright Horizons Foundation to support our mission to make a difference to the lives of children and families.”
To donate, visit Gemma’s Just Giving page: