The Preston corporal who battled 154 miles on foot to raise money for limbless veterans charity and remember mum who died of Covid

After losing his mum to Covid-19, a military corporal from Preston braved a march from Preston's Flag Market to ITC Catterick and back in full uniform, raising thousands for a limbless veterans charity.

By James Holt
Tuesday, 4th May 2021, 3:45 pm

The charity was close to James Kirby s heart, as his mum Denise had suffered from a life of physical difficulties after having her legs removed and being left unable to use her arms.

And after she died in March, after contracting the Covid-19 virus, military corporal James decided he would travel 154 miles on foot, from Preston's Flag Market to ITC Catterick and back to raise money for the Blesma charity - all while carrying 59 kilos of weight on his back.

It was during his posting at ITC Catterick, where he trains recruits as a section commander, that he got the call from the hospital telling him the devastating news that his mum had "just hours left to live."

James kneeled at the memorial in the Flag Market on Sunday

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Last Friday, April 30, he left on foot from the Flag Market on what would be a strenuous 48 hours of non-stop walking to remember his mum.

He said: "The pain I went through on my travels is temporary and is nothing compared to what people go through who rely on this charity. The walk was a hard graft and extremely difficult, but I knew I had to keep pushing on to raise money to help give people a better life.

"I kept thinking about the people like my mum who needed help and support from a charity like Blesma. The walk was a way for me to mourn my mum's death and help get the mental pressure off my head because I had been constantly grieving and there were times I didn't think I could get through it.

James was raising money for the Blesma charity

"The route I took was the same route I drove home the night I got the call telling me my mum was going to die. I walked to ITC Catterick and back to represent the 48 hour battle that she had when fighting for her life."

His mum Denise Kirby, 59, lost her battle on March 12 after being diagnosed with Covid-19 and spending two days in Southport and Formby Hospital.

And her lifetime of suffering from diabetes, immobility and a stroke is what inspired son James to raise money for Blesma, the limbless veteran's charity.

Speaking to the Post back in March, James said: "I received the news from the hospital that my mum had just hours to live. On the journey to the hospital, I was praying I would make it in time to be there with her and say goodbye - I will never forget the feeling of hope and determination.

Dressed in full uniform, he carried 59kg of weight on his back - the age of his mum when she died

"She was a great woman who had experienced many hardships and physical issues in her life. After being diagnosed with diabetes and living with it throughout her life, she had both legs amputated on separate occasions, suffered a stroke and lost mobility of her hands.

"With my mum having had her legs amputated and needing assistance with her mobility, it seems the right charity to smash the miles out for and contribute to the amazing help they give servicemen and veterans and their families."

He has since exceeded his target and raised over £7,000 for the charity through online donations and collections on his travels.

Friends and colleagues supported James at different parts along his 154-mile route, and he was met with tears and applause from supporters at the Flag Market when he returned on Sunday.

He walked 154 miles to ITC Catterick and back to remember his mum Denise

And a fundraising bucket gathered a commendable £510 along his journey from passers-by who donated to his efforts.

He said: "I tried to get people involved who meant something to be in my life. I was supported by the people who knew me and supported me when I was homeless, my friends, my family, and people who serve with me in the army. I broke the journey down into individual legs and groups of no more than three people joined me for a quick stop along the way.

"I had blisters on my feet from 20 miles in and had cuts all over. I was in absolute turmoil but just had to keep pushing on and fighting. I ran back to the memorial in the Flag Market and knelt down before I shed a tear.

"Even just raising £10 could help someone who has lost their limbs feel normal for the day, but I am emotional and overwhelmed at how much I have raised so far. It will go a long way to helping the charity give a chance to people who need it, and everyone who has supported me, been involved or shared the cause should be proud that they can make a difference."

Donations can still be made to the Go Fund Me page here.

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