Natalie Ho wants to spend the rest of her life honouring the memory of her twin sister Sammy.
Sammy died last month aged 24 after battling serious illness since the day she was born.
She touched countless lives with her ever-smiling attitude in the face of adversity, and will be there in spirit when Natalie and her siblings scale Ben Nevis in October.
They aim to raise thousands for Charlie House, who helped ensure the Bridge of Don family had some magical memories with Sammy.
Natalie said she is encouraged by the thought that the closer they get to the summit, the closer they will be to her departed twin.
‘I’ll have Mountain Rescue on speed dial….’
Natalie is far from a seasoned mountaineer, and says getting ready will be an uphill struggle in itself.
She said: “I’ve always wanted to climb Ben Nevis, and when my sister passed away I felt I should do it to honour her.
“That has been my push, we are doing it in memory of her.
“In the past I have done bits and pieces for charity, like an abseil or bag-packing at Asda, but this is another level.”
She added: “When I’m struggling up Ben Nevis, and I’ve got Mountain Rescue on speed dial, I’ll have to think of Sammy and how much she overcame.”
As well as brother Steve and sister Kimberley, Natalie will be joined by a group of friends including two of Sammy’s carers.
The route the fundraisers plan to use will take 8-10 hours to reach the 4,413ft peak and get back down again.
The group are prepared for “less than ideal” conditions next month but they are filled with a special sort of confidence.
Natalie said: “I don’t feel nervous or scared despite the horror stories everyone is telling me, I’ll just be thinking of Sam and that’s what is going to push me through.
“We are doing it for her, and other kids like her.”
‘The friendliest, happiest, cheekiest person’
Sammy Ho dealt with some massive health problems in her 24 years.
She survived radical surgeries, life-threatening infections, two holes in her heart and even Covid before losing her fight for life in July.
Her upbeat spirit as she endured such difficulties gained plenty column inches, and the bubbly young woman made friends with everyone she met.
Sammy’s status as something of a local celebrity meant that scores of people, many who had never even met her, were devastated to learn of her death.
The outpouring of tributes has provided some comfort to the family, who now have two large boxes packed with hundreds of condolence cards in their front room.
Natalie said: “Sammy made an impression on everyone she met.
“You might have thought, to look at her, that she couldn’t do much. But she was the friendliest, happiest, cheekiest person.
“More than 200 people turned up to her funeral, they couldn’t all fit in the hall so some waited outside.
“Even though it was raining, they didn’t mind. They wanted to be there for her.”
Natalie’s plans: ‘You can’t go wrong helping people.’
Natalie graduated with a degree in quantity surveying from Robert Gordon University last summer, but is now returning to higher education to study nursing.
The twin sees the career shift as another way to continue Sammy’s legacy, as she spent so many years helping to look after her sister.
“I feel like helping people is what I am meant to do,” she said.
Sammy’s trip of a lifetime
The funeral itself raised more than £1,000 to be shared between north-east children’s charity Charlie House and hospice charity Chas.
The cash raised from the Ben Nevis challenge will also be going to Charlie House.
Natalie explained why the organisation means so much to the family.
She said: “Charlie House is there to provide support for families who have children with life-shortening conditions, and they have really been there for us.
“We have all these special memories of Sammy through the charity, that otherwise we wouldn’t have.”
One chapter the family especially cherish was when Charlie House provided a weekend getaway to the Kielder Water and Forest Park in the borders.
The whole family rarely got to enjoy such outings.
The park has been adapted to suit disabled visitors and Sammy soon surprised everyone by showing off her adventurous side.
“We don’t have a lot of memories of doing something fun as a family, or if we did then Sammy couldn’t be included,” Natalie said.
“We didn’t know how much she would manage, but at Kielder she was going sailing in a canoe and climbing up walls. It was amazing.
“She even got on the huge King Swing…
“Even though she was basically paraplegic, she kept saying ‘higher, higher!’ as we went up in the air.”
How you can help
Natalie added: “If not for the charity we wouldn’t have these memories, and now we want to help give other families experiences like that.”
Charlie House’s children and family support manager, Leigh Ryrie, said: “I love how many of the children we help are adrenaline junkies – they just don’t often get the chance to show it.”
At the moment, families need to travel to Kinross to use such a facility.
The Hos know how valuable it will be for the north-east, and what a difference it could make to many lives.
People can click here to donate to the family’s Ben Nevis fundraiser.