Aylesbury Vale woman launches brain tumour awareness project in memory of late brother

"Mark was a laid-back guy with a real zest for life", she says

By James Lowson
Friday, 11th March 2022, 11:35 am
Updated Friday, 11th March 2022, 11:38 am

An Aylesbury Vale woman is launching a fundraising campaign to fund cancer research in memory of her late brother.

Sara Wiegand from Granborough, is organising a fundraiser for Brain Tumour Research, after her brother Mark Smith's battle with the condition.

At the gym she works as a communication manager at in nearby Cublington, ‘Kilometres for Kilimanjaro’ will be launched, volunteers are encouraged to walk, cycle or run the equivalent of the Kilimanjaro climb distance choosing either a short, medium or long route.

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Sara Wiegand and her brother Mark Smith, photo from Brain Tumour Research

The scheme will take place in the week leading up to Wear a Hat Day on 25 March.

On this day, the gym has planned a special evening to bring members together and give participants the opportunity to finish their kilometres if they haven’t already done so.

Volunteers hope to raise at least the £2,740 needed to fund a day of research at one of the charity’s Research Centres of Excellence.

Sara explained the significance Kilimanjaro held for her brother, saying: “Mark was a laid-back guy with a real zest for life.

Mark with his wife Karen and the twins, Matthew and Katie, photo from Brain Tumour Research

"He lived abroad for about 15 years, first living and working in Prague, then Kenya, Eritrea and Egypt before coming back to the UK in his late 30s.

“He did amazing things in Africa, including climbing Kilimanjaro in Tanzania and trekking to see the mountain gorillas in Rwanda.”

Mark, a father-of-two from West Sussex, died of an aggressive brain tumour in February 2014.

He was diagnosed with a grade 4 glioblastoma multiforme (GBM) after suffering from ‘vacant spells’ and seizures.

hunt fitness hats, photo from Brain Tumour Research

Mark underwent radiotherapy and chemotherapy but died in a hospice two years later, leaving behind his loving wife, Karen, and their seven-year-old twins, Matthew and Katie. He was 49 years old.

Sara has previously raised big money for the charity to honour her brother, she raised £3,000 by skydiving for her 50th birthday.

She added: “We’ve got about 100 members and, in fact, one of them is a brain tumour survivor, so that’s really positive.

"A lot of our members have said it’s a great charity and they’ve lost someone to a brain tumour – you don’t realise how many people it affects.

“I’m excited about the event, which we’ve been planning for about three months.

"Mark would be a bit embarrassed because he was very stoic and didn’t like a lot of fuss but his wife and children have asked for caps and hats and will be doing their challenge where they live between the three of them.”

Now in its 13th year, Wear A Hat Day has raised more than £2 million for Brain Tumour Research to help fund the fight against the disease.

It is one of the UK’s biggest and best-loved brain tumour research awareness and fundraising days.

This year, the charity’s Wear A Hat Day pin badges have a regal theme in celebration of the Queen’s Platinum Jubilee and several of the charity’s celebrity ambassadors are fronting the campaign, including TV personalities Danny Clarke and Sarah Beeny, actor and long-time supporter Dame Sheila Hancock DBE, and brain tumour survivor Caprice Bourret.

Danny lost his sister to a brain tumour; Sheila's grandson was treated for the disease when he was just four years old; Sarah was in her 20s when she lost her mum to a brain tumour; Caprice had surgery for a brain tumour six years ago.

Charlie Allsebrook, community development manager for Brain Tumour Research, said: “This is an exciting fundraiser organised in memory of a much-loved father-of-two.

"Sadly, Mark’s family are not alone in their grief. Too many families are being ripped apart by this devastating disease.

"We are determined to change this and are grateful for all the support we get through fundraisers such as this which allow us to continue to fund vital research into brain tumours.

"We wish members of Hunt Fitness the best of luck with their challenge and would encourage other businesses, schools, friends and families to get involved in Wear a Hat Day too.”

Brain tumours kill more children and adults under the age of 40 than any other cancer yet historically just 1% of the national spend on cancer research has been allocated to this devastating disease, the charity reports.

The ‘Kilometres for Kilimanjaro’ challenge has a fundraising page which can be accessed online here.