Words by Smiley Team
As teenagers go, 13-year-old Leah-Mai is far from average due to her dedication to animal welfare. She's about to take on the challenge of a lifetime in support of dogs in need.
On 2 April, Leah will begin an eight-day, 82-mile trek to Mount Everest base camp. On her way, she will have to brave ice-cold temperatures and the possibility of altitude sickness, frostbite and hypothermia.
But she’s prepared to take on this struggle, all for the sake of her four-legged friends.
In dedicating herself to this fundraising mission, Leah hopes to raise thousands of pounds for Dogs Trust, a charity with a rehoming centre in Loughborough, near to her home town of Grantham.
Envisaging how the trek will go, she imagines that the thought of helping homeless or abandoned dogs will spur her on. “I am hoping to raise £5,000 and however hard it gets, I know thinking of the dogs I am helping will keep me going,” she says.
For her, this adventure is driven by a long-held adoration for dogs due to the strong bonds she has formed with ones of her own, as well as those she’s visited at the rehoming centre.
“I absolutely love dogs and can’t imagine not having dogs as part of our family, so I want to do as much as I can to help those that for whatever reason, have had to leave their families behind and now need new homes,” she explains.
Everest is far from being the first challenge she has taken on. To train and build strength ahead of the mission, she has already conquered Scotland’s, England’s and Wales’s highest mountains – Ben Nevis, Scafell Pike and Snowdon.
On all her adventures, she is accompanied by her sprocker spaniels, Harley and Ralph.
Together, the three have also tackled Fan Dance, a 24-kilometre route through the Brecon Beacons that is infamous for its difficulty level, even among the ranks of the UK Special Forces.
With just one month left till she flies to Kathmandu, Leah will squeeze in one more mountain, Helvellyn in the Lake District, before she leaves.
The Dog Trust has been highly impressed by her efforts, with their Loughborough manager, Celine Di Crocco, saying: “We have been keeping up to date with Leah’s training for some time now and we think she is incredible for taking on such a mammoth challenge.”
They are also very grateful. “The fact that she has chosen to support us is wonderful and means we can make sure dogs we are caring for have everything they need, whether that’s treats and toys or specialist training,” Celine adds.
“Leah has visited the centre and as we cheer her on from afar, we really hope that thinking of our dogs gives her the courage and strength to carry on, however tough it gets.”
DONATE: To help Leah fundraise off the back of this challenge, donate to her fundraiser.
SUPPORT: Find out how you can help the Dogs Trust to protect vulnerable or abandoned dogs, via their Get Involved page.