Letterkenny man sets sights on Kilimanjaro

A LETTERKENNY man who was once left paralysed from a rare neurological disorder is set to climb Africa’s highest mountain in aid of the Irish Guide Dogs Donegal Branch.
John Wilkie’s health began to deteriorate a few years ago when he began to suffer from neurological issues along with hip problems.
The popular Karate instructor was diagnosed with Guillain-Barré syndrome, a rare disorder where the body’s immune system damages nerves.
John knew if he wanted to get through this, he would have to keep a positive attitude.
In 2019, John was on medication and could barely walk.
Following a visit to a Letterkenny consultant, John received the news he had to get a double hip replacement to which he replied “hip hip”.
When John was told he had to attend rehab, he said no, no, no.
“I told them I won’t be going, something happened at that point and I think it was the karate and the discipline of the mind that brought me back,” he said.
When John got back on his feet he began walking alongside Mountain Guide and International Expedition Leader Jason Black.
It wasn’t long until the conversation about climbing Kilimanjaro came up, which was the perfect opportunity for John to raise funds for a charity that is very close to his heart.
Previously, John was a carer in the community in Derry where he used to care for a blind man. The man who was blind from birth could never leave his house. John knew if this man had access to a guide dog his life would be different.
That was the beginning of John’s fundraising efforts for the Irish Guide Dog’s Donegal Branch.
Last year, John held a barefoot fundraiser for the charity, raising €3,000.
John currently has one year training behind him with his climb due to take place in June.
Starting his training last year, John has climbed Errigal a total of 15 times, has climbed Muckish twice and has also climbed the Blue Stack Mountains.
Speaking about the climb, John said it is set to take place from June 17 to June 27.
“It is a ten day trek. We travel to Tanzania and then we head off on the journey. Hopefully we make it, I think it is doable and with my training I could do it in the morning,” he joked.
John’s climb is being sponsored by SafeTech in Letterkenny.
“Climbing Kilamanjaro might sound out of my league but it’s not really, we all have to face mountains,” he said.
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