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Newcastle family to complete their “Walk to Disney” challenge

Dad James, and children Molly and Oliver, began their virtual challenge in aid of The Brain Tumour Charity last October – walking over 4,000 miles from Newcastle to Florida in Sarah’s memory. They will take their final steps in Disney World, Florida, on May 23rd, Sarah’s birthday.

James, Molly and Oliver’s Story

Sarah and children Molly and Oliver

“Sarah was amazing – beautiful inside and out.  She always had a smile on her face and would do anything for anybody.  She was our rock. 

James Hawkes

Sarah Hawkes, a community nurse from Chapel Park, Newcastle, died in June last year from a brain tumour which was undiagnosed at the time of her death. 

Sarah, who was 45, had been suffering from headaches, brain fog, and lack of concentration since November 2021, which she thought might be down to the menopause.  She made several trips to her GP, and in March 2022, her symptoms were bothering her so much that she took the difficult decision to take time off work.

Sarah’s husband James explains: “Sarah was amazing – beautiful inside and out.  She always had a smile on her face and would do anything for anybody.  She was our rock. 

“From March 2022, she made frequent contact with the GP as her symptoms of brain fog, confusion and headaches were not improving.  I think because she always suffered from migraines, the seriousness of her headaches was maybe overlooked. 

She went to the GP at least fortnightly from March and they were looking at getting the medication correct.  They were reducing the pills she was on, and next on the list was looking at neurology.”

Tragically, Sarah died in her sleep on June 20th last year, before her tumour was diagnosed.

It was only when her devastated family received a report from the coroner that they found out she had a stage four brain tumour. 

Walking to Disney to raise funds

Sarah’s family – husband James, children Molly and Oliver, Sarah’s parents, Gordon and Maureen, and best friend Emma – were determined to raise awareness of brain tumours in Sarah’s memory.  It was Oliver, 11, who came up with the idea of a fundraising challenge for The Brain Tumour Charity, the UK’s leading charity dedicated to fighting this disease. 

Sarah loved walking, and her favourite place was Disney World. The family set themselves the target of walking over 4,000 miles – the distance between their house in Newcastle to Sarah’s favourite place, Disney World, Florida.

They began their challenge in October 2022, walking close to home and drafting in friends and family to boost their mileage total.  But later this month, they will take the final steps in Disney World itself, on May 23rd – Sarah’s birthday. 

James said: “Sarah was all about caring and helping others and would always go the extra mile for anybody and everybody she met.

“I was proud when Oliver came up with the idea for our challenge.  It’s the exact thing Sarah would have done.  Knowing she would be proud of us, and raising awareness in her honour is what drives us forward and keeps us going.

“It’s very important to us to do something to help others, while keeping Sarah’s memory alive. Oliver’s words from the off were that he wanted to raise awareness, so other families didn’t have to go through the same as him.” 

Walking through the winter has been tough – the family’s very first walk was completed in a downpour – but friends have been ready and willing to help.  Pupils at Oliver’s school, Ponteland Primary School, are holding their own walks in support.  Sarah’s friends held a sponsored walk on Newcastle’s Quayside in March this year, and a football tournament also took place to boost funds.  The family have now raised over £12,000.

“It's been lovely seeing how much Mum meant to so many people. I've loved planning Disney and we have booked “Be our Guest” restaurant – Beauty and the Beast was her favourite Disney movie – on her birthday, so that'll be very special.  “Going to Disney and then seeing the final amount of money we have raised will be amazing.”

Molly Hawkes

After seven months of daily walks around their home in Newcastle, the family finally have Florida in their sights. 

James said: “Disney World is a perfect destination to finish the challenge, because Sarah loved everything Disney. We had been before when we were younger and always talked about taking the kids one day.

“What kept us going through all this, is knowing we are doing Sarah proud.  She would be the one telling us to get out there and just do it.  We are delighted with the support we have had and the amount we have raised.  There has been joy in seeing the kids’ faces light up with each and every donation.”

We are delighted with the support we have had and the amount we have raised.  There has been joy in seeing the kids' faces light up with each and every donation.

James Hawkes