With the support of his family and an adopted one at Dundee West, Keith Chalmers is aiming to complete a gruelling Three Peaks Challenge.
For months, Keith has been training to scale Ben Nevis, Scafell Pike and Snowdon, the three biggest mountains in Scotland, England and Wales, respectively.
He and step-brothers Graeme and Billy Jenkins, along with six others, will attempt to bag all three peaks in just 24 hours to raise money for Cancer Research UK in honour of Keith’s late mum Helen and step-dad Wullie.
Since the start of the coronavirus pandemic in March last year, both have sadly passed away after short battles with cancer, aged 68 and 72 respectively.
Their losses left the brothers heartbroken and, too, grandkids Cohen, Aarya, Thomas and Emily-Rose.
Keith, who has coached Dundee West Royals U/15s for nine years, says if they can help one family avoid going through what they did all their efforts will be worth it.
‘I’m doing it with my mum at the forefront of my mind’
“Both of them passing away from cancer out of the blue within 10 months of each other turned our world upside down,” the 36-year-old said.
“We felt like we needed to do something to help and in honour of their names and their lives. It’s part of the grieving process.
“I struggled mentally and had a few issues after my mum, just being a guy, putting things to the back of your mind and thinking: ‘I’m fine’.
“This challenge has really helped me talk about my issues. I’m doing it with my mum at the forefront of my mind.
“Graeme and Billy would agree, they’re doing something in honour of their dad.
“Anything we can raise, if it can help one family have a little bit longer or get a diagnosis earlier, that would make me happy.”
Titanic effort to scale three peaks
Keith, who plays for West’s over-35s team after a junior career with Bankfoot, East Craigie, Downfield and Kirrie Thistle, is readying himself for a real test of endurance.
The challenge kick offs on Friday night as they head for Wales looking to conquer Snowdon before working their way back to Scotland.
They hope their titanic effort is worth it as they aim to raise £5,000.
Anything we can raise, if it can help one family have a little bit longer or get a diagnosis earlier then that would make me happy.”
He explained: “We climb Snowdon at 8.30am Saturday morning, up and down, then in the bus to Scafell Pike, same again, and up to Ben Nevis for the final climb.
“We should get there at 3am and then try to get down in time. It gives us five-and-a-half hours to get back to the bottom!
“I’m looking to get to £2,500 for my mum, Graeme is aiming for £2,000 for his dad and both pots will go to Cancer Research UK.
“If we could make £5,000 between the two of us that would be huge. Amazing.”
Mum Helen was ‘a big kid’
Keith remembers mum Helen as “a big kid” and recalls a happy household with step-dad Wullie.
He praised hospital staff for the care both received in their final moments.
Of her passing, he said: “She passed away really suddenly in March last year. From going into hospital, she died four weeks later.
“From the diagnosis of brain cancer it was six days after that she passed in the Roxburghe.
“They were amazing for us in the Roxburghe. Covid restrictions were really tight at the time but, because it was palliative care, they allowed two visitors in.
“They’re a special breed of people. Really incredible.
“It was heart-breaking for all the family, more so for Aarya. Her and my mum were close.
“They would spend hours together on Saturdays doing craft, my mum was just a big kid at heart so she put all her time and effort into the kids.”
He continued: “After that, her partner Wullie, who she’d been with for 34 years, fell ill as well.
“He was like my step-dad and Aarya’s grandpa Wull, as she’d call him.
“He suffered with the heartache and the stress of my mum passing.
“They had a traditional relationship – my mum would make the tea and all that and Wullie would be there as a sort of partner and just worked.
“They were really close as a unit and when my mum passed Wullie’s deterioration was quite quick. He had no health issues previous to that and then he’s diagnosed with lung cancer.
“That was picked up last November and, again, it was very quick.
“Myself and my step-brother Graeme took time off work in December to go and see Wullie thinking it might be the last.
“We managed to get him home and look after him there at the end before he passed in January. It was a crumb of comfort in a really tough situation.
“They were proper Dundee people, at their happiest together at home.”
Family feel at Dundee West
With Keith, Graeme and their kids all involved at West, the family have taken great comfort from the support they’ve received from the club.
Charlotte Street has been a second home for them for almost a decade and Keith was keen to thank West for being there when they needed them most.
He added: “Wullie and my mum were down all the time to watch the grandkids, they lived just around the corner.
“Dundee West has got a huge connection to the family. The club’s supported me and the kids in everything we’ve tried to do.
“It’s got such a family feeling.
“I was struggling a lot with the heartache and bereavement but the one thing that always kept me and the family happy was Dundee West.
“Having the football back now has been a massive help for us in terms of recovering from what we’ve been through.
“I can’t wait to get a picture at the top of Nevis in my Dundee West top.
“Of course, my mum and step-dad will be my motivation to get up and down. I want to make them proud.”
You can donate to Keith’s fundraiser for Cancer Research UK here.