Brave soles take on fire and ice walk for Thorpe Hall

Sue Ryder fire-walking at Thorpe Hall. Kerry Coupe walking the hot coals EMN-151031-225303009

Sue Ryder fire-walking at Thorpe Hall. Kerry Coupe walking the hot coals EMN-151031-225303009

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Kerry Coupe, head of content at the Rutland and Stamford Mercury, bravely took on a fire walk for Sue Ryder Thorpe Hall Hospice in Peterborough.

This is what she thought of the experience.

“I thought a firewalk was going to be easy. That was until the moment on Saturday night when I was standing barefoot in the cold wet grass about 2ft away from the burning hot embers ready to firewalk in aid of Sue Ryder Thorpe Hall Hospice.

“In the two-hour training session moments before, led by Cliff Mann of Time 4 Change, I’d felt like I could have run across 20ft of hot coals several times over. But led outside into the shadows of the mansion house, I hadn’t quite expected to find knee-high flames and clearly, the group of about 26 I was with hadn’t either judging by some of the phrases that could have turned the air blue had it not been quite so smoky.

“Cliff had spent the training session telling us about the power of positive thinking and we all had a mantra to say, which I was hastily repeating in my head, as I neared the front of the queue. The huge crowd of supporters - and the group of us waiting on the sidelines - cheered loudly as each person took the seven or eight strides across the hot coals - quickly followed by the next person.

“As eighth in the queue, my turn very quickly approached, my heart beating fast, my legs bouncing in anticipation.

“Cliff shouted his mantra over the crowd’s cheering: ‘What’s your name?’

“‘Kerry!’

“‘Are you ready?’

“‘Yes’

“But then, just as I’m expecting him to scream ‘Go’, it’s ‘Stop’ that I’m met with instead. The flames that we’d earlier watched being beat into embers by Cliff and his team armed with spades are pushing back through. Cliff pushes his digital thermometer into the embers and he shows me the temperature reading before announcing it to the crowd: ‘651 degrees.’

“We’d been told that the “safe” temperature to firewalk is between 500 and 700 degrees but I know from my own painful experience that your skin burns at considerably lower heats.

“The positive mantra that was running through my head is soon replaced by fear and this time when he shouts ‘Are you ready?’ the response is ‘No.’ But he doesn’t care and shouts ‘Go’ anyway.

“I remember looking down and seeing red embers. I felt the expression on my face and I remember vainly thinking the photograph wouldn’t look good in the newspaper.

“I can feel a tingling sensation and I’m aware of the change underfoot as I go from wet cold grass to burning hot embers and then back to the grass but despite seeing with my own eyes the reading on Cliff’s thermometer, it doesn’t feel hot. In seconds it’s over and my shaking legs have reached the other side.

“The queue reforms so we can continue cheering on our colleagues who have yet to firewalk. And suddenly Cliff is asking if we want to go again and with adrenalin buzzing, the whole group takes a second turn.

“The second time goes just as quickly as the first and I still don’t remember to smile for the flashing cameras.

“I signed up for this mad challenge as part of a list of 30 challenges to mark my 30th birthday, most without the support of sponsors, who had handed over their hard-earned cash for this incredibly worthy cause.

“Kim Elliott and Elaine Rignall are both volunteers at Thorpe Hall and were standing alongside me in the queue as we braved the firewalk. They are involved first-hand in the incredible care provided to every patient.

“Kim, of Orton Longueville, Peterborough, said afterwards: “I didn’t know what to expect but the training session made you feel like you could do anything. I’m so glad I did it, I feel quite emotional.”

“And 71-year-old Elaine, of Stanground, Peterborough, added: “All my friends put on Facebook that I was completely mad and maybe I am! But it was brilliant. It’s nothing like you expect, you just don’t feel anything.”

“Hours before we braved our soles to walk on fire, a group of nine even crazier people than us stepped onto shards of broken glass.

“As our fire walk was fast, the “ice” part of the Fire and Ice challenge was slow and steady as each person stepped as though they were literally treading on egg shells. The air was filled with the sound of cracking glass even over the gasps of the crowd of supporters.

“Medical secretary at Thorpe Hall Clair Knight did the firewalk last year and was determined to go a step further with the glasswalk.

“She said: ‘It was a very strange sort of feeling but it definitely didn’t feel sharp. You had to really concentrate on what you were doing but the atmosphere was amazing and I’m buzzing now.’

“Jo Killick, events fundraiser at Thorpe Hall, added: ‘We are so proud of all our fire and ice walkers who took part in the challenge. Watching the range of emotions they went through from fear to determination and then elation afterwards reminded us of the enormity of what they had volunteered to do to raise money to support our work here at Thorpe Hall Hospice.

“‘We are so grateful to them and to all those who have supported them, either on the night or through sponsorship. We hope that each of them has been able to take something away from the training they went through that will help them in every day life - and of course that they are feeling really good about themselves for supporting an incredible cause.’

“I can only assume the reason my colleagues, family and friends sponsored me - and the rest of the Fire and Ice participants - was in the hope that the soles of our feet were burnt to a crisp or cut to ribbons because since Saturday, the only question I’ve been asked is: ‘How are your feet?’

“My feet are fine thanks and I’m very proud to have raised more than £220 for Thorpe Hall. Each person had been asked to raise a minimum of £150 - enough to pay for three family support sessions when a patient is admitted to the hospice.

“Patients at Thorpe Hall are often facing the most difficult challenge of their life, so in comparison, walking 20ft - something Cliff reminded us we’ve been training for since we were born - was hardly a challenge at all.

“To find out more about Thorpe Hall and how you can help visit www.thorpehall.org - or to sponsor me visit http://virginmoneygiving.com/kerrycoupe. Thank you.”