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30 September 2016

Bereaved mum reaches John O’Groats on ‘Walk of Love’ around the coast of Great Britain in memory of her daughter

Grand appeal Natalia

The mother of a five-year-old girl who passed away from a rare illness has reached John O'Groats on her 'Walk of Love' around the coast of Great Britain, to raise money in her daughter's memory.

Natalia Spencer, 41, from Cheltenham, is walking 6,000 miles around the coast after her daughter Elizabeth passed away at Bristol Children's Hospital in December. She started on Valentine's Day in Dorset, and almost 200 days and 4,000 miles later reached the iconic John O'Groats signpost onTuesday 27 September.

Elizabeth was taken ill in November last year with a relatively common virus which triggered an autoimmune condition known as Hemophagocytic Lymphohistiocytosis (HLH). This rare condition overwhelmed her vital organs, and after 18 days on life support Elizabeth passed away on 10 December.

Natalia now hopes to raise £100,000 for The Grand Appeal, the Bristol Children's Hospital Charity. The funds will support the hospital's Paediatric Intensive Care Unit, to help them care for other critically-ill children.

Natalia's 'Walk of Love' started at Durdle Door in Dorset, the last beach she and Elizabeth visited together.  Since then she has walked the coast around Cornwall, Devon, Wales, Lancashire, Cumbria, and into Scotland.

Over then next few days she will pass through Berriedale, Dornoch and Fortrose as she makes her way south.  She is inviting anyone who would like to walk with her to join her for part of the journey, and has already been joined by a whole host of supporters, many of whom have also lost a child.

Grand Appeal - NataliaNatalia has already raised almost £75,000 and her inspirational efforts have seen her nominated for Endurance Fundraiser of the Year at the JustGiving Awards.

Natalia said, "The walk has been an enormous challenge, particularly in the Highlands, as the coastline becomes more rugged the further north I go. That being said, Scotland has been my favourite place on my journey so far. The landscapes are just breathtaking and while it is very remote, it is also very peaceful.

"I have met so many kind and generous people and had so many messages of support from people all over the country. I feel blessed to experience so much compassion from people I have never met before.

"Waking up to another day without Elizabeth is the most difficult thing I have ever had to do, but I know she is with me every step of the way. By completing this walk I will be able to bring something positive from her passing. Her memory will live on through the people I meet along the way and all those who are touched by her legacy."

Suzanne Maverick, fundraising manager, The Grand Appeal, said, "Natalia is a true inspiration and we are so proud of everything she has achieved. From the very beginning she has been determined to create something good from the tragedy of losing Elizabeth. Her fearless efforts will leave a lasting legacy, providing vital equipment for the Paediatric Intensive Care Unit that will support other critically-ill children in the future, and making certain that her beautiful little girl won't be forgotten."

You can follow Natalia's journey at or on Facebook by searching 'Elizabeth's Footprint'. To donate, visit .

You can vote for Natalia to win Endurance Fundraiser of the Year at . Voting closes on 12 October, with the winner announced at a special ceremony on 22 November.