Meet the Harrogate friends trekking across the Sahara to raise vital funds for a mental health charity

Michelle Lepine with Joanne Herendi, Paula Conroy, Lucy Ward and Louise Mulrooney. (1802101AM1).
Michelle Lepine with Joanne Herendi, Paula Conroy, Lucy Ward and Louise Mulrooney. (1802101AM1).

Trekking across the Sahara desert is the latest challenge that hardy Harrogate resident Michelle Lepine is taking on for charity.

Joined by a group of very determined friends, seasoned fundraiser Michelle will trek for four days as part of her incredible ongoing goal to raise £40,000 for good causes in her forties.

This particular feat will mark Michelle’s seventh year of major fundraising challenges, and she will keep going until 2021 - completing one endurance-testing event each year.

This year Michelle is raising money for Wellspring Therapy and Training in Starbeck, a mental health charity which provides vital counselling support and training.

An increasing demand for Wellspring’s services has led to the charity expanding and finding a new home at the former St Andrew’s vicarage, and the money from the Sahara trek will go towards funding the set-up of these new facilities, among other vital projects.

Michelle and friends Joanne Herendi, Anne Hobbs, Paula Conroy, Lucy Ward and Louise Mulrooney, start the trek on Friday, walking up to eight hours a day and climbing to the top of the Chicaga Dunes. They have already clocked up a phenomenal sum of more than £9,000 on their online donations page with incredible support from the community.

Michelle has already raised more than £39,000 for charity through her challenges as a whole, with three years still to go.

Michelle said: “We are excited but a little bit apprehensive as we approach this, the reality is kicking in now. It’s quite hard to train and prepare for these conditions, especially in the middle of winter. We’ve done walks together as a group, and we’re trying to get as fit as possible for the trek.

“I think the challenges will be different for everyone - for some of the group it will be leaving family behind, but for all of us I expect blisters are inevitable, and just the length of walking in those conditions will be tough. We are camping and there will be no luxuries whatsoever.”

Although the trek will be a gruelling test of physical and mental endurance, it is the thought of what the group is doing it all for that will keep them going.

Michelle said: “Thinking of everyone who has supported and sponsored us will definitely keep us going - we don’t want to let them down, and of course thinking about the great work that Wellspring does.” Michelle’s other challenges have included a trek to Machu Picchu, a quadrathlon, a 350 mile cycle across Cuba, a 40 mile ultramarathon, and the Great North Run.

She said: “I am overwhelmed by everyone’s generosity in supporting the fundraising for these charities.”

Support has come from the likes of Oatlands Community Group who have organised a ladies night on March 16 to add to the fundraising total,.

Local firms have also been backing the Sahara trek and given sponsorship, including Artemis Investment Management, Harrogate Interiors, GH Brooks, CNG, Studio One, and The Brain Collective.

To sponsor Michelle and the team, go to: https://mydonate.bt.com/fundraisers/saharaseven