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Loving Father Climbs Mount Kilimanjaro to Honour His Son and Scatter His Ashes

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Since he passed away, Terry and his wife Karen have vowed to keep the name of their son – Jacob – alive in their memories and their fundraising. They usually hold an annual bingo fundraiser, but after the pandemic put a hold on public gatherings, Terry decided to go even bigger – and climb Mount Kilimanjaro to scatter some of Jacob’s ashes at the summit.

Terry and Karen’s beautiful son, Jacob, tragically passed away at just five days old.

After complications during his birth, he was rushed to St Michael’s Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU), Bristol. Staff worked exceptionally hard, day and night, to care for Jacob. His big sister, Sofia, even tried to look after him, listening for his heartbeat through a doctor’s stethoscope at the side of the cot.

Sadly, despite staff’s best efforts, Jacob drifted off to sleep forever in Terry and Karen’s arms.

Since then, Terry and Karen have been fundraising for St Michael’s NICU. Then, when the pandemic hit and they couldn’t hold gatherings, Terry decided to commit to a huge fundraising challenge – scaling Mount Kilimanjaro in Jacob’s name. So far, he’s raised a life-changing £7,000.

This is his incredible story.

Getting Ready for Kilimanjaro

On September 19, Terry and two of his close friends – Mel and Mark – flew out to Tanzania. The next day, they started their six-day, gruelling climb up to the summit of Mount Kilimanjaro.

Believe it or not, Terry hadn’t realised Kilimanjaro is a mountain. He’d been led to believe by TV shows that it would just be a difficult hike – but his research didn’t put him off. He put down the deposit and dedicated the next two years to training.

Mel, Mark and Terry put their all into training. Mel has been a source of great support to Terry, and Mark – who has suffered his own loss – was one of the first people to reach out to Terry after Jacob sadly passed away.

“He’s someone who, when I lost Jacob, reached out to me and said, ‘I’ve experienced that’. And I didn’t know that. So, he was the first person I asked to join me on this trip.”

Terry has known Mark for a decade. They fought addiction together and kept each other safe and accountable.

“I was a homeless drug addict for 20 years. I got clean, met my wife, had a kid – and then Jacob died. I was in recovery, trying to get my life back in order. People who are non-addicts, they just go and drink, they’ve got ways to escape, and I just didn’t have any of that. So, it was so challenging and difficult.”

Having Mark and Mel, who understood Terry’s past, was so important to Terry and helped him keep going. Their training covered giants like Mount Snowdon and Crooks Peak, spending quality time together, getting to know each other on a deeper level. It meant the three understood each other and knew when they were struggling.

The Climb

The next few days were challenging ones. The steepness and the altitude were something they just couldn’t train for in the UK – so they were facing an unknown beast.

It was four days of scorching sun and freezing cold nights, a lack of proper sleep or rest and thinning air the higher they climbed. Climbing mountains like Kilimanjaro can also put you at risk of altitude sickness – something that can make completing your climb almost impossible. You struggle to breathe, and an accompanying dizziness and sickness comes with it.

Terry had so much on his mind during this difficult climb that, on top of it all, he forgot to take his altitude sickness tablets to keep it at bay. Mark and Mel had – so he decided to just keep going and hope he’d have time to adjust to it.

Summit Night

But all of this was nothing compared to summit night for Terry.

“It completely took everything I had, everything, to get my mindset right to complete it.”

The last stretch proved the hardest. Close to the summit, Terry was ready to give up. He felt he’d given everything his body and mind could give, and he was completely sapped of energy. Mark – who is 20 years older – couldn’t make the summit but did an incredible job scaling the mountain, supporting Terry the whole way. Mark reached his own summit that night!

“I was adamant I was going back down. It was Mel that was with me. I was leaning on my sticks, freezing cold, had nothing left in me, and she turned around to me and said, “Terry, it needs to be you at the top scattering Jacob’s ashes.” And it just hit my heart. I thought, ‘it does need to be me. This is my trip, my idea – this is for Jacob.’”

Ready to call it quits, it was Steve, the lead guide, that pulled him aside and put things into perspective for him. Steve asked Terry to keep going for another half an hour – but that was it.

“What I did was I committed to another 30 minutes before I turned around… and then that 30 minutes turned into seven, eight hours. And I made it.”

They made it to the summit! Despite everything, Terry found a second wind and together, they made it. Here he is with his fantastic summit image.

“When we finally reached the top, Mel turned around and reminded me that on that day, 24 September, I turned 10 years clean. I’d been in recovery 10 years that day. In a decade, I’ve come from homelessness, eating out of bins to a lecturer of forensic science, a father, a husband – someone in recovery that’s gone a decade without putting any substances in his body.”

“When she said that, that made me break down a little bit. Just that absolute moment of recognition, pride – yeah, I’ve done a lot in 10 years. I’ve done a lot. And then after that, when I was at the top of the mountain, I went off by myself.”

Terry found a serene, quiet spot on the summit and sat down alone.

“I had a little teaspoon of Jacob’s ashes. I sat down privately by myself and just had a little talk to him. Then, I scattered his ashes on the top of Mount Kilimanjaro.”

His motivation to keep going the whole time was to make it to the top of the mountain so a little part of Jacob would always be there, on top of the world. It was at this point that Terry broke down completely and sobbed, overwhelmed with emotion and memories. He cried most of the way down the mountain – he couldn’t believe what he’d achieved, all in honour of his son.

Looking around and seeing the support

Before Mel, Mark and Terry had even left, they’d raised about £6,000.

“I was gobsmacked because I set my target high, but I didn’t think I’d raise that much.”

The day of the climb – 20 September – was Terry’s 46th birthday. He was thousands of miles away from his wife, his daughter and his friends, but the guides made sure he didn’t miss out. They got together and threw him a small celebration at the Machame camp, complete with a birthday cake.

Pointing out their incredible total post-climb, which currently stands at £6,960, and how many people believe in him, Terry had a moment where he was taken aback as that sunk in.

“I didn’t think about that. Most of the people on my social media are people that are in recovery from addiction, so this isn’t their cause – they’re literally supporting this cause because they believe in the people doing it. Yeah, I didn’t think of that.”

Terry – who has overcome and lived through more than anyone should in a lifetime – clearly has this huge amount of support for a reason.

Terry is already planning his next adventure. When he’d climbed the mountain, he said ‘never again’… but back in the UK, he’s already researching what his next challenge will be.

“I don’t know what it’s going to be, but hopefully it’s going to be just as big – or bigger and better!”

We can’t wait to see what Terry is going to do next – we’re sure it’ll be incredible. The money he has raised from his climb will go into funding the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit at St Michael’s Hospital. Jacob’s memory is providing life-saving care for the babies in there, and accommodation for families so they can stay just minutes from their babies.

If you’ve been touched by Terry’s beautiful story, donate to his JustGiving page here while it’s still active and help him reach his £10,000 target.

Terry is proof that you don’t have to be a professional – if you’ve got motivation and spirit, you can conquer anything. Take a look at our current events to see if there’s anything that takes your fancy. Or, if you’ve got your own idea, get in touch with us – we’ll support you the whole way.

Wallace & Gromit's Wrong Trousers Day is back on Friday 21 June.