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PandA Paddlers raise over £3,000 while conquering their own battles

This year's weather has really put paid to a number of outdoor activities, which has affected people's ability to fundraise for our Hospice as well as many other charities.

Andrea and Paula with their support crew

Our Santathon was cancelled in December due to snow, as well as the Brentwood Half Marathon in February " and the most recent cancellation was the Devizes to Westminster International Canoe Race.


Andrea Burke from Romford, and her paddling partner Paula Dutson from Enfield, took on the 125 mile challenge, which has been held every Easter since 1948, in aid of our Hospice.


However, this year due to dangerous river conditions, event organisers called the race off at Dreadnought Reach where the Kennet & Avon canal joins the Thames.


"We arrived just outside Reading and our support crew advised us to stop," explained Andrea. "We'd completed 45 miles but others attempting to paddle the final few miles were facing trouble with the fast flowing weir streams so we reluctantly agreed to call it quits."


Competing as veterans in the Senior Doubles class, Andrea and Paul both qualify for the 'Century Class' in 2019 and are planning on attempting the race again. "We're so lucky our sponsors have all honoured their donations but we want to earn their sponsorship!" said Andrea.

 Paula and Andrea on the water (cropped)Starting from Devizes in Wiltshire and finishing just downstream of Westminster Bridge, opposite the Houses of Parliament, this event is a severe test of skill, physical and mental stamina and planning. A non-stop race down canals and rivers, portaging 77 locks, it is cited as one of "the 10 toughest challenges to tackle in Britain" and "the common man's Everest".


Andrea has always been a big supporter of Saint Francis

Hospice, completing Mud n Madness four times and 

Paula and Andrea on the water    even abseiled down the YMCA with her son, all to                                         raise funds for our charity.


"You never know when you're going to need the services of your local hospice, and living in Romford, I've always been aware of Saint Francis Hospice," Andrea said. "Suddenly, in November last year, we lost my dad to cancer and the Hospice at Home team were amazing, providing so much support to him and us in his final days.


"Paula and I had considered fundraising for our canoe race but we were in the middle of our training when Dad passed away so raising money for the Hospice seemed absolutely the right thing to do."


The women, who have been friends since pre-school, were known as the PandA team when they paddled together in their teenage years. They decided to get back in their boat following a 30-year break after Paula was diagnosed with Breast Cancer in 2016. Paula was going through her chemo and radiotherapy whilst training, so the friends had to pull together even more than before and their dream of conquering the Devizes to Westminster race was rekindled.


They trained on the Lee Navigation at the Lee Valley White Water Centre in Waltham Cross where they are also now actively involved in the committee that helps to run the Lee Valley Paddlesports club.


"When we weren't at Lee Valley, we were out training on the River Thames, especially at night," Andrea explained. "It's such an amazing river - in the dark you wouldn't see another vessel on the water and by day we spotted herons and kingfishers sitting out on the water."


Andrea, who has worked for DHL for 27 years, has also sought match funding through the DHL UK Foundation, hoping to increase their fundraising efforts of over £2,700 even further.