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Posted: Thu 30th Jul 2020

Updated: Thu 30th Jul

News and Info from Deeside, Flintshire, North Wales

When seven school girls heard that the zoo they loved was in trouble, they stepped up and challenged themselves to climb to the top of Mount Everest to help raise vital funds.

After being forced to close for almost three months because of the COVID-19 pandemic, Chester Zoo faced an uncertain future and was pushed to the absolute brink of survival.

Primary school friends Layla Heaton, Heidi Wetherall, Sophia McGrady-shaw, Lily-May Wilkins, Caitlin Pratt, Esme Pratt, and Harriet Sedwell set themselves a target to raise £600 for Chester Zoo by climbing a staggering 8,848m between them using their stairs at home during lockdown.

168 supporters helped the girls raise over 500% of their target, bringing their total to an incredible £3,330.

Starting their ascent on 5 June, the girls reached 1942m by just day three, and completed their challenge in only 16 days.

When the girls reached base camp at 5380m, they had a Zoom call with the Founder of the brand EDGE Travel Worldwide, Dave Pickles, who has operated on Mount Everest since 1997 and runs summit expeditions to the top as well as other UK and international adventure trips.

He spoke to the girls about what is was like to climb Everest for real and offered to take the girls and their parents on an unforgettable trip up Mount Snowdon in North Wales for free to celebrate their achievement.

Organiser and mum to Layla, Vicky Powell, said: “When Layla heard that the zoo was in trouble, she really wanted to help.

“The girls were so excited when they had the idea to climb to the top of Everest by climbing their stairs at home, which is a huge challenge for seven children aged between six and nine. They were so passionate about their challenge, one girl even climbed her stairs 100 times on day one.

“The Zoom call with Dave really spurred the girls on, he was so knowledgeable and gave the group some really interesting information about mountain climbing. We were so touched when he offered to take the girls up Snowdon to celebrate their achievement.

“Lockdown has been difficult for everyone to get through, but with the girls not being able to meet up and see each other, this challenge has really made them feel like they were doing something fun together. They showed real team work and really kept each other going, it definitely helped take their mind off everything that was going on at the time.

“We all absolutely love the zoo and the vital conservation work it does and are so happy to have been able to raise so much for them. The real celebration will be when we will all finally be together to go up Snowdon – it will be the first time that we’ve all seen each other since lockdown. I’m so proud of what the girls have achieved.”

Founder of EDGE Travel Worldwide, Dave Pickles, said: “Not only did the girls achieve an incredible goal but the fact they wanted to help such an important charity as Chester Zoo really did inspire EDGE Travel Worldwide to give both the girls and Chester Zoo the opportunity summit the highest mountain in Wales and the second highest in Great Britain this Autumn – Snowdon.

“To see the Chester Zoo flag flying at the top and the girls achieve another incredible goal will simply be superb – we can’t wait to organise the trip once the lockdown has been lifted.”

Jamie Christon, Chief Operating Officer at Chester Zoo added: “We can’t hide from the fact that this crisis has pushed us, the UK’s largest charity zoo, to our limits. Ensuring that every one of the 35,000 animals continued to receive the very best care and attention over time we have been closed, with very little money coming in and no access to the government’s support fund, has been one of the biggest challenges that this great zoo has ever faced.

“Although we’ve now been able to reopen to the public, which has been vital for the zoo’s financial survival, there is still a long way to go before we’re fully back on track – there is no denying that there will still be some very challenging times ahead. That’s why we’re so grateful to our wonderful supporters who are still fundraising for us.

“We’ve been truly overwhelmed by the kindness that we’ve been shown when times are hard for everyone, not just us. The financial damage we’ve suffered has left a deep scar and the road to a full recovery remains uncertain. But with our fantastic fundraisers’ support and being able to safely welcome visitors back, we’ve some renewed hope that this great charity zoo has a future.”

Chester Zoo’s fight for survival still isn’t over and are still in need of support, head to www.chesterzoo.org/support-us to find out how you can help.

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