by JULIE-ANN SPENCE
GARETH Loughins from Lisburn is dusting off his hiking boots to help end child cruelty by taking part in this year's NSPCC walking challenge, the Mournes HACK (Hike Against Cruelty to Kids) on September 17.
"My brother Richard initially signed up for HACK a couple of months ago, and he asked me if I would like to join him," explained Gareth. "When I heard more about the event and that it was for such a good and worthy cause as the NSPCC, I didn't need to be asked twice."
Describing his training 'regime' the Lisburn man admitted: "To be honest we haven't really started but we are hoping to begin by hiking up Slieve Donard. We will try and gradually build up the length of the hikes over the coming weeks. It is something we both enjoy so I don't see the training being too much of a problem — though ask me that in a couple of weeks time and I might tell you a different story."
A lover of outdoor activities, Gareth continued: "My brother and I went to America about four years ago with a group from Trek America which involved a lot of hiking and it is something we both loved. I hiked up Half Dome in Yosemite National Park, California which was simply awesome. It in itself was a 19 mile round trip so four years on I hope I still have the stamina for the HACK challenge.
"I was looking for an exciting challenge in 2011 that would help build-up some level of fitness, while at the same time raise much needed funds for causes like the NSPCC. HACK is a great opportunity to do both. The 20 mile hike will be a tough challenge but my brother and I hope to complete it in good time," he continued.
"There are a lot of good people out there who give up their free time week in and week out to volunteer for these great causes so hopefully by completing this challenge I'll play some small part in helping out." Encouraging other local people to get involved, he added:
"Events such as HACK are great fun, challenging and rewarding, but most importantdy it will help the NSPCC continue to carry on with their fantastic work."
Karen Walker, NSPCC community fundraising manager, said: "The HACKs are a real physical challenge but so enjoyable. We are grateful to all participants for getting involved, and wish everyone the very best of luck with their training and as they tackle the day itself. With hundreds of walkers taking part, it's destined to be a fantastic event." The registration fee is £20. For further detaihs and online registrations and payments, log on to www.nspcc.org.uk/hack or contact the Northern Ireland NSPCC fundraising office on 028 90 35 7970 or by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org. Final registration date is September 3, 2011.