Autistic teenager receives hero's welcome after completing Highland challenge|
PERTH, Scotland: Insiprational teenager Bobby Stephen, who is autistic and has no speech, has helped raise a bumper sum for charity after completing a West Highland Way challenge.
The 18-year-old from Perth was among a group of pupils from who received a heroes' welcome at their school after recently returning from the ambitious trek.
The seven 15- to 17-year-olds from Ochil Tower School in Auchterarder have conditions ranging from autism to Tourette's. However, they set out on a 96-mile journey from Milngavie to Fort William, supported by their teachers and five assistants, raising more than £1,300 for the John Muir Trust in the process while helping one other and endearing themselves to those they met along the way.
Five of the young people and three adults walked the Way, with the others acting as a support team. Three of the boys managed the entire walk while the others managed the vast majority with only a day's rest.
Ochil Tower School caters for around 35 children with special needs, many of whom have severe and complex difficulties.
The adventure was the culmination of several months of extensive preparations, both physically and personally. Some of the boys are heavily reliant on routine and familiar surroundings and had to cope with adapting to issues such as changing weather conditions, coming into close contact with unfamiliar people and staying overnight in different places.
Bobby, who loves music and computer games, inspired his family and friends to help him contribute more than £500 to the fundraising effort.
Teacher and walk leader Neil Snellgrove said: "The walk went incredibly well. We achieved it in eight days, six of them in heavy rain and winds, but the children were undaunted. They really loved the experience. Needless to say, we are all very proud of them.
"They love being outdoors and enjoying the open air, and walking is a regular feature of life at the school. Over the past few months, however, our training has meant this has been taken to a whole new level.
"It is almost impossible to over-estimate the level of their achievement and what they have had to overcome to accomplish this."
The group chose to raise money for environmental charity the John Muir Trust because the West Highland Way passes through many of Scotland's most amazing wild places.
John Hutchison, chairman of the John Muir Trust, said: "This is a fantastic achievement for these young people. And of course, we're extremely grateful for the money they've raised. It will help us maintain footpaths and trails for others to enjoy."
(Source: Perthshire Advertiser, May 20, 2011)