A woman with Down’s syndrome is walking 21,000 steps on 21 lockdown days in Bowdon to raise money for the NHS

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A woman with Down’s syndrome is raising money for NHS Charities Together by walking 21,000 steps around her Bowdon home and garden for every day of the current lockdown.

Helen Williams, 41, lives with her younger sister Felicity, her brother-in-law Simon and their four daughters having moved in three years ago after a difficult spell in a care home in Somerset.

She usually attends the Pavilion Project day centre in Bowdon Vale for two days a week – and two other centres on the other three weekdays – but all had to close their doors since the coronavirus lockdown was announced last month.

Helen usually attends the Pavilion Project day centre in Bowdon Vale

Helen had struggled with the change to her routine and her mental health further deteriorated with the news that an old friend called David, who has learning difficulties, was on a ventilator in hospital after contracting Covid-19.

And following last week’s decision to extend the lockdown by a further three weeks, she has decided – with support from her sister Felicity – to focus on a daily walking challenge.

So every day since Friday, she has chalked up 21,000 steps around her sister’s garden and home – and intends to carry on for all 21 days of the current lockdown.

Watch her in action here:

“Helen was getting listless with the lockdown and was missing her day services,” said Felicity, a local GP.

“So when the second lockdown was announced, I spoke with her and said ‘let’s get a challenge’. She is obsessed with numbers and this helps to give her a focus.”

Each day after breakfast, Helen will walk up to 12,000 steps before lunch – with her Fitbit keeping track – and then do another couple of hours of walking in the afternoon until she hits 21,000, usually finishing by 5pm.

Her favourite music from the likes of ABBA, The Beatles, Take That and S Club 7 provide the soundtrack to her efforts as she diligently navigates her sister’s home and garden, often pursued by her four young nieces.

Helen with brother-in-law Simon and one of her young nieces

She has set up a JustGiving page to raise money for the NHS Charities Together initiative – she has already raised over £600 and is targeting £2,100 – and is hoping to also raise awareness of the particular complications faced by people with special needs during the current crisis.

“It has really helped with her mentally and it gives her a purpose,” added Felicity. “She is reading the messages on her Facebook page each morning and can’t believe the messages from people she doesn’t even know. The other day she was in the kitchen singing ‘When Will I Be Famous’!”

Helen and Felicity were close growing up, sharing a bunk bed in their family home in north London.

But with her mental and physical health worsening, Helen moved into the home that her younger sister – who had moved up to Altrincham having settled in the area after studying at Manchester University – shares with husband Simon, a headteacher, and their children.

Helen is keeping track of her daily walks on her Fitbit

“She is now vastly improved… back to how she was in childhood,” Felicity added. “She has a role here – she can be an aunty and a big sister. It does have restrictions but you just have to put a little bit more thought into what you do. She tells me every day that I’m her favourite sister.”

Felicity paid tribute to the Pavilion Project and the other day centres in the area forced to shut their doors by the coronavirus outbreak.

“We have met so many wonderful people over the last three years,” she said. “The day centres in Trafford are absolutely wonderful and there are lots of other people in the same situation to us. The people who have supported me as an individual, like Lorna Robinson at Pavilion Project and her daughter Lucy, who is Helen’s main carer, are second to none.”

You can support Helen’s ‘21,000 steps per day for 21 lockdown days’ challenge here.

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