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In memory of Jemlo: Group of 25 family and friends of Gemma Reading complete Three Peaks Challenge and smash £25,000 fundraising target for mental health charity Mind



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When Terry Reading reached the top of Mount Snowdon with his younger daughters Jade and Hayley as part of a group of 25 family and friends, they had achieved a feat of fundraising, togetherness and determination that they hope will help people struggling with their mental health.

Tears flowed as the weary walkers – who over two days had completed the Three Peaks Challenge of scaling Ben Nevis in Scotland, Scafell Pike in England and Snowdon in Wales – laid an engraved slate heart at the summit in memory of Terry's eldest daughter, Gemma Reading.

Jemlo, as she liked to be called, died just over a year ago. Having suffered with anorexia as a teenager, she later turned to alcohol and, after years of abuse, finally succumbed with her family at her bedside in April 2021. She was 42.

The team of fundraisers (57525099)
The team of fundraisers (57525099)

The challenge was organised by Jade's husband Ed Bowler. So far the group has raised £36,201 for mental health charity Mind to improve access to help and support for patients and their families. Their justgiving web page is still open for donations.

Terry, 71, who lives in Stansted with wife Tina, joined the group for the final climb on Sunday June 19 – Father's Day – himself having undergone knee and hip replacements.

"I'll never ever forget their faces as they walked off the bus to start the climb up Snowdon," he said. "All the girls were in absolute bits. No-one realised how hard it was going to be and I thought 'There's no way they're going to do this'.

Gemma's sisters Hayley, centre, and Jade, right, with dad Terry (57525108)
Gemma's sisters Hayley, centre, and Jade, right, with dad Terry (57525108)

"They all said it was the hardest thing they've ever done, but they all dug in, and what they've done and the money they've raised is just unbelievable.

"We had some bad weather at the top, but for them to get through it and to watch them all work together, it was just great to see.

"I'm so glad I got to do it with them. There were lots of tears, and although we couldn't stay at the top long because of the weather, we had just enough time to put down a heart with a message for Gemma."

A former Harlow Town footballer, Terry has known the group of friends since they were children.

A slate heart left on the top of each mountain in memory of Gemma (57525102)
A slate heart left on the top of each mountain in memory of Gemma (57525102)

"I've known them all since they were kids and I felt as if I was doing this with my own mates. They'd all known Gemma since she was a baby and they were all there for her all the time.

"But we just couldn't help Gemma. No-one knew what to do or where to go and there just wasn't the help out there. Even the counsellors in the end said they couldn't help her unless she helped herself and that was the biggest barrier and I find that really hard."

Gemma grew up with her family in Harlow, attending Burnt Mill School, later moving to live with her parents in Stansted. A keen dancer, she won a grant to attend a performing arts academy at the same time as her eating disorder began to emerge

The weather worsens as the group climb (57525093)
The weather worsens as the group climb (57525093)

She went on to become a beautician, working at Elements in South Street, Bishop's Stortford, and loved singing, performing in a band at weekends. She was living in a flat in Elsenham by the time her problems had escalated.

Terry said: "By now, the last few years, she'd turned to drink, and the damage done to her body by the eating disorder and the alcoholism, it was just awful to watch.

Jade, left, and Hayley begin the ascent (57525114)
Jade, left, and Hayley begin the ascent (57525114)

"She went into Harlow hospital but was transferred to the Royal Free in London, where they felt she needed specialist treatment.

"This was during lockdown, and after a couple of weeks we got a phone call to say there was nothing more they could do.

"We were told to talk to her on Zoom calls, that she might hear us, then we were told it could be any time and we went every day and stayed with her, only Tina and myself allowed round her bed. In the last few days they let us all in, her sisters as well."

Terry added: "She had so many people willing her to get herself better. I want there to be more help, to try to nip these problems in the bud earlier. Right at the beginning, when we realised she had a problem, there just wasn't the help and it's a major problem.

"If there are parents out there who think their child has a problem, then take them to see someone. The biggest problem we had for Gemma was once she started drinking, then there was no help, they didn't want to know – it was as bad as that."

The team of fundraisers (57525096)
The team of fundraisers (57525096)

Paying tribute to his father-in-law, Ed, 43, of Pig Lane, Bishop's Stortford, said: "Not only did he lose his first daughter, he has spent the last five to seven years trying so hard to find help for her, trying absolutely everything. He's a complete inspiration to us all.

"We had tears at the top of Snowdon. The weather was awful too – 35mph winds and low cloud with rain and a wind chill of minus 5! Never moaning, he was just amazing."

Ed said that Gemma's death had left a huge hole and many unanswered questions.

"When she passed away, I promised that I was going to try to help raise money for a charity that would benefit most and be able to help those victims and families that were in the same situation as us for so many years.

"Sadly, Gemma had multiple conditions – the main issue was that she suffered with food disorders from an early age. Like most of these underlying conditions, people tend to develop other issues and for Gemma that was sadly alcohol. The family then had to endure countless days, months and years trying so hard to help and guide her to safer pastures.

The sun sets over the mountains (57525084)
The sun sets over the mountains (57525084)

"Unfortunately the mental health system in the UK is under so much pressure that it seems to really struggle to help people when they most need it. Tragically for Gemma and our family, we just didn’t have enough time to try and help save her."

Ed added: "Everyone competing in the challenge was very close to Gemma, so it was such an emotional event, a real mixture of abilities within the group which made the challenge even more challenging, but it made sure we had to complete this as a team and help each other along the way.

"Tears and pain, both physically and mentally, were rife throughout, but everyone helped and as a result we all managed to complete all three mountains."

In addition to the Three Peaks Challenge, Ed's sister, Lucy Bowler, organised a fashion show at Skew restaurant in Stortford, teaming up with Mie-Style clothing to raise over £2,000, while friend Carly Davies, from Hatfield Heath, organised a fundraiser at her Hertford store Beyond Beauty, contributing a further £1,000.

To find out more about Mind visit www.mind.org.uk.

The group of 25 family and friends completed the Three Peaks Challenge in memory of Gemma Reading (57525090)
The group of 25 family and friends completed the Three Peaks Challenge in memory of Gemma Reading (57525090)
The group make their way up the winding mountain path (57525087)
The group make their way up the winding mountain path (57525087)
Hayley, right, and Jade with dad Terry and challenge organiser Ed Bowler, left (57525111)
Hayley, right, and Jade with dad Terry and challenge organiser Ed Bowler, left (57525111)
The group stop en route up Mount Snowden (57525081)
The group stop en route up Mount Snowden (57525081)


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