A caring nanny has embarked on the mother of all challenges ... to conquer Africa’s highest mountain.
Serial fundraiser Zoe Prentice is well versed in charity events, having coined in thousands of pounds for the Yorkhill Children’s Foundation over the last 10 years.
And when her friend Iain McDonald – known as Meg – passed away at ACCORD Hospice last March after a brave battle against bone cancer, she decided to raise money for the Paisley charity in his memory.
Zoe, from Renfrew, wanted to do something special in honour of Iain ... and came up with the idea of climbing Mount Kilimanjaro, in Tanzania.
After months of training, Zoe’s 11-day trek is now under way.
And, before setting off on her African adventure, she told the Paisley Daily Express that she’ll be thinking of Iain every step of the way.
Zoe, 31, said: “I’ve been training for this since May. After Meg passed away, I got together with a couple of friends to think about what we could do to raise money for ACCORD and we came up with this.
“However, I’m the only one who has ended up doing it!
“I approached ACCORD and said I’d like to climb Mount Kilimanjaro and they helped me to organise it.
“Iain was a kind and very funny guy. He touched the hearts of everyone who was lucky enough to have known him.
“He was such an inspiration to myself and many, many others.”
Iain, who was dad to seven-year-old Lewis, was just 35 when he lost his fight against cancer.
Zoe said: “He was one of my brother’s friends and I’d known him since I was little.
“As I got older, I got to know him myself as a friend.
“He had a positive outlook on life and remained positive throughout his treatment.”
To prepare for her Kilimanjaro challenge, Zoe walked the West Highland Way and conquered a few Munros around Scotland.
She also plans to take part in the Three Peaks Challenge – which involves climbing the highest mountains in Wales, England and Scotland within the space of 24 hours – later this year.
Zoe said: “I’ve fundraised for about 10 years, usually for the Yorkhill Children’s Foundation because I’ve looked after some children who’ve gone there.
“I’ve organised plenty of charity nights but this challenge is something totally different.
“I’d never done hillwalking before but now I’ve done Ben Lomond a few times.
“I was given an exercise programme, which is mostly cardio. I’ve been running up and down the stairs at work and I’ve got a cross-trainer and exercise bike at home, which I’ve been using while I watch EastEnders!”
Zoe had to raise a minimum sponsorship total of £3,000 to take part in the Kilimanjaro trek but has smashed that target, with an incredible £10,000 gathered in so far.
To help reach that total, she has taken part in everything from a sponsored bounce to an X Factor-style night at the Normandy Hotel, in Renfrew.
A group of Iain’s friends also grew moustaches as part of Movember and donated the money to ACCORD.
“Iain’s family have been really supportive,” said Zoe. “They’ve donated a lot of money to ACCORD and they’ve given me money to buy kit, which was lovely of them.
“It’s been quite overwhelming to have so much support from people.”
Iain’s former employers, Subsea7, paid the cost of Zoe’s trek, while outdoor clothing company Trespass has donated the likes of socks and fleeces.
Zoe said: “For some of the days during the trek, we’re only walking for four hours but it’s an average of about seven.
“The last day is the big one. We’ll be walking for up to 16 hours that day. It’s the one where most people collapse because of the altitude change.
“We’re ascending so slowly that I should be able to adjust. We get up at midnight and do the walk to the summit and then start to make our way back down the same day.
“I’ve been given a lot of practical advice about what to take and how to pack my rucksack.
“It was suggested that I take plastic bags to put over my walking boots because, some nights, we’ll be so cold that we won’t want to take our muddy boots off before we get into our sleeping bags.
“We’re also taking wee miniatures so we can have a drink some nights if we feel like it!”
Ken Mathie, ACCORD’s fundraising manager, is full of praise for Zoe.
He said: “I think what she is doing is fantastic.
“Zoe has worked so hard to raise a wonderful amount of money and we all wish her well.
“I’m sure that she’ll make lots of great memories and friends for life doing this trek.
“We’re very grateful to Zoe for thinking of us and we’d also like to say thanks to all the people who’ve supported her.”
● To donate to Zoe’s fundraising total, go to www.justgiving.com/meg12