A GRATEFUL woman will be climbing the highest mountain in Kenya to thank a bereavement team which has supported her family in their time of need.

Sophie-Leigh Brunton will be setting off on a fundraising challenge to Mount Kenya on August 18, because of the help her little brother, Charlie, and dad, Andy, receive from St Helena Hospice’s Starbursts grief support programme.

Sophie’s stepmum Sally was diagnosed with breast cancer and brain tumours in March 2013. As a mum with a three-year-old son, regular counselling sessions became important to her so she could continue family life.

Day Therapies sessions gave her another outlet for her frustration and there she created a memory box of letters and keepsakes for her son, Charlie.

Just after Christmas 2016, Sally was moved into the hospice and died in January 2017, aged 42.

Now seven years old, Charlie was supported by Starbursts, a monthly drop-in grief programme for young families, and now has one-to-one counselling.

Dad Andy explained: “Charlie goes off to work creatively with the other children, and the parents sit together and we talk openly about everything - our feelings, what we’ve gone through.

“It’s so nice to sit and listen to other people who have gone through all that too, suffered the way you’ve suffered. You can just talk openly.

“No-one’s questioning you or judging you. I really benefit from it.

“There are never any sad memories of the hospice for Charlie, always happy memories.

“He would love playing in the garden in the little playhouse or collecting pinecones and conkers.

“He was never scared about going, his face just lit up, he was excited.

“He’d spend a few minutes with his mum then he’d go straight off to play with the toys or watch a DVD.”

Sally stayed at the hospice for respite on a few occasions and Charlie would visit and Sue Leavett, assistant social worker, would spend time with him talking about his mum.

When Charlie started school, Sue regularly visited him there and at home, and would recommend story books exploring emotions for the family to read together. This continued support is the reason Andy and his daughter, Sophie-Leigh, and friends, did a fundraising skydive in May.

Sophie, 23, from West Mersea, said: “It was the first time I had tried it and I absolutely loved it.

“I said I would do it again, we raised about £2,400 from that.”

Now Sophie is about to take on a solo trek up Mount Kenya, which she hopes will include a moment at the summit to watch the sun rise and think about Sally.

The peak she will be climbing is 16,000 ft high. As part of her training, Sophie climbed Snowdon with friend April and personal trainer Leigh from Énergie Fitness Colchester, where gym members have been busy boosting Sophie’s training and her fundraising.

She said: “Snowdon got me even more excited but there is still a whole lot of nerves.

“I am going to be higher up than I was jumping out of a plane and that is quite surreal.”

Sophie said: “When Sally was at home it was hard, especially through the bad stages.

“Charlie was three or four during the bad times, so dad was up and down the stairs quite a lot having a growing child and Sally needing his attention as well.

“So to actually have someone there to help them and hold their hands through something they didn’t think they’d ever have to deal or cope with, was so important.”

To donate visit justgiving.com/fundraising/sophie-brunton1.