Emotional Reunion For Britain’s ‘Barefoot Soldier’
After 35 long days on the road, Army Major Chris Brannigan, 40, finally completed his agonising 700 mile trek from Land’s End to Edinburgh (via London) barefoot this week (August 12), with an emotional reunion with his family.
The dedicated dad took on the challenge to raise money to fund pioneering research into a treatment for his eight-year-old daughter Hasti, who suffers a rare genetic condition.
Chris' challenge saw him exceed all targets, to raise over £350,000 in a month, which will now pay for the needed research, and also go towards the huge cost of a clinical trial.
The public support was phenomenal - people stepped out to support and cheer Chris on in every town he’s visited, providing food and words of encouragement when times have been tough.
However it was extremely gruelling, both physically and mentally, on the dad-of-three, who suffered foot infections and injuries along the way that, at times, made him doubt if he’d be able to complete the walk.
Army Major Chris Brannigan finished his walk and was greeted by eight-year-old daughter, Hasti
Speaking after finishing, Chris said:
“I'm just so relieved I made it and was able to finish, because at times I wasn't sure if I'd make it.
"I've had a few injuries along the way, including foot infections, which made me doubt at points if I'd be able to complete the full 700 miles.
"This is by far the toughest challenge I've ever done - there have been real ups and downs but the support locally and the generosity of those who've donated really kept me going.
“Whenever times were hard, I just reminded myself why I was doing it- to give my daughter the future she deserves."
Like any little girl, eight-year-old Hasti dreams about what she wants to be when she grows up - and more than anything she wants to become a dancer and chef.
However, tragically her family face a race against time to fight for Hasti’s future, as she suffers a rare, debilitating genetic condition which, by the time she reaches puberty, could dramatically restrict her quality of life and leave her permanently needing around-the-clock care.
Parents Chris and Hengameh Delfaninejad, 42, were devastated when Hasti was initially diagnosed with a rare genetic condition called Cornelia de Lange Syndrome (CdLS) in 2018.
The heartbroken parents were told diagnosis meant a series of serious physical and mental health challenges.
For children with CdLS the severe mental health challenges often get worse from puberty. They often suffer from seizures and severe anxiety and self-injurious behavior.
They now live in fear worrying about how the potentially life-limiting condition - which has no cure or even treatment - will impact their happy-go-lucky daughter’s future, which is why Chris is raising money to fund pioneering research treatment options.
In Hasti’s case, her parents were aware there was something wrong as soon as she was born, but she didn’t receive a diagnosis until 2018.
They still have no idea how the condition will fully impact her until she gets older, and without treatment, she’s likely to never have independence.
Army Major Chris Brannigan with his family
Hengameh, Hasti’s mum, says:
“It was so hard knowing something was wrong, but not receiving a diagnosis for so long - when we found out there was no treatment our hearts broke. We just want Hasti to be able to have the opportunities all other children have.”
The majority of those with CdLS will also experience depression and anxiety disorders that can lead to self-injurious behaviour. It is a life-limiting disease, and rare for children with CdLS to grow up and have independent lives.
There is no cure, or even a treatment to help Hasti, which is why her parents Chris and Hengameh have set up their own charity, Hope For Hasti, and on Monday 6 July, Army Major Chris departed from Land’s End to embark on a 700-mile, month-long trek to Edinburgh to raise money for pioneering research to help find a treatment.
Chris really felt the physical impact of walking barefoot, at one point even walking with crutches, but says the support he’s received along the way by locals has been incredible.
People have come out in droves to show their support, offering meals and medical advice for his injured feet, and by the time Chris finished, donations had surpassed £350,000.
Initially they set out to raise £50,000 from this challenge, and this was to go towards the £400,000 needed for research. Having raised this, additional funds will go towards the £2.5million needed for a clinical trial.
“It’s was a tough challenge but I did it for my little girl, to give her hope for the future. Every painful step barefoot and every donation, no matter how small, hopefully means we are a step closer to funding research into treatments.”
They are also urging people to sign a petition asking the government to review its National Framework for Rare Disease, encouraging them to invest in research, earlier diagnosis and cutting edge treatments to give people who are affected hope.
To donate, please visit: https://www.justgiving.com/fundraising/BarefootAcrossBritain
Please sign the petition: https://petition.parliament.uk/petitions/330174