The Fundraiser of the Year Award recognises an individual who has 'gone above and beyond' to raise funds and/or awareness for Parkinson’s. This year we are delighted to announce Maura Ward from Kilkeel, Northern Ireland as this year's deserved recipient. Maura took on the extreme challenge of climbing Japan’s highest mountain, Mount Fuji, raising an incredible £14,574 for The Cure Parkinson's Trust (CPT).

Maura was diagnosed with Parkinson’s in 2013, aged 64. To mark her 70th birthday in 2019 she decided, with some convincing from her son Johnny, to mark the occasion by climbing the 12,389 ft high Mount Fuji in Japan, and in doing so raising funds and awareness for CPT.

Even before her training was curtailed by illness in the months leading up to the challenge, Maura knew this would not be an easy feat. The altitude sickness Maura was dreading crept in not long after she had begun her ascent, with the lack of oxygen resulting in dizziness and the sudden worsening of her Parkinson’s symptoms. A particularly challenging section lasting three hours reminded Maura that Fuji was in fact a volcano as they scrambled up the extremely steep volcanic rock on their hands and knees. Eventually they reached their designated rest stop, where the other 17 members of the team were waiting to hug and cheer for Maura when she arrived.

The next day was no easier, however Maura’s relentless determination ensured she slowly put one foot in front of the other until at 10am on 10 July, Maura reached the top of Mount Fuji (pictured below). They purchased postcards to send home, on which Maura managed to scribble ‘Made it!’

Maura’s son Johnny was there every step of the way, not just in the climb but throughout Maura’s fundraising campaign too. Maura said:

“The climbing group (pictured below), mostly strangers before this, but dear friends now, got me through it. Their kindness, care and warmth still reduces me to tears when I think about it. And then there was Johnny, I’m not even going to start about all he did. I could not be more proud of him. And my daughter Aisling, the voice of reason in our family! Though she worries if I go somewhere or do something unusual, her support is always unwavering.”

Maura has not only raised an incredible amount for CPT, but with press coverage in local and national Irish newspapers, and even a video interview with the BBC, Maura has gone above and beyond to raise awareness of the condition too. She also kept her followers updated on her blog, Geriatric Traveller, which she started soon after her diagnosis as she decided to pursue her dream of travelling. While Maura always had travelling in mind for her retirement years, her diagnosis of Parkinson’s served as a catalyst for this, as she puts it, ‘awfully big adventure!’ Maura has now visited over 60 countries and counting! Maura said:

“I still haven’t entirely come to terms with the enormity of the whole experience, but in time I will. If my struggling up Fuji helps a single soul with Parkinson’s come to terms with their diagnosis, or it shows even one person that a Parkinson’s diagnosis doesn’t mean the end of everything, then it was worth every painful step.”

Will Cook, CEO of CPT said:

“Maura is an inspiration. Not only has she completed this gruelling climb to the top of Mt Fuji, but she has harnessed an incredible network of supporters through her personal contacts, media interviews and her blog which translated into a huge sum raised for the search into a cure. Maura says that this was a team effort, and our thanks go to all those who walked and fundraised with Maura, especially her son Johnny. But we are delighted to recognise Maura for her excellent achievement at the heart of this challenge.”

Thank you so much Maura!

Read all about our inspiring runners up for the award here...