Anita Gripe

For Anita, a holiday and a television programme led to a dramatic change in her life - and almost £2,000 raised for Cornwall Air Ambulance. Here's her story in her own words...

I'd always been overweight, but since getting married in 2001 I'd slowly been putting on more and more weight over the years.

The first trigger for finally doing something about it came in September 2009 when we returned from a holiday in Egypt. I felt uncomfortable all the way home as I was too large to fit in the seat comfortably. I told myself at the time that it was just the airline having small seats, but in reality I knew the truth: I was too big. 

The second trigger came in October 2009 when I went on a shopping trip to Clarke’s Village with my sister and two friends and found that I couldn't buy anything in any shop as they didn't have any clothes in my size. At that point, I promised myself that I would only return to Clarke's Village when I'd lost enough weight to buy clothes in any shop I chose.

In November 2009 my sister and I joined Slimming World at the County Arms in Truro and by the time I went to Florida in October 2010 I'd lost 5 stone 5 lb.

I was delighted when I found I could sit comfortably in the airplane seat and ride on the fast rollercoasters in the theme parks! Little did I know that this was the start of my love for the fast and dangerous – the scarier the better!

Over the next few years I lost more weight and to date I've lost 7 stone 12 lb.

During Christmas 2012 I was at home watching the Question of Sport Christmas Special where Matt Dawson and Phil Tuffnell did a Wing Walk. It looked like great fun, and before I knew it, I was looking into how I could do it myself!

My first thought was that if I was going to do this then my chosen charity would be Cornwall Air Ambulance. My brother-in-law is a Paramedic and I have the upmost respect for anyone who can do that job. I also wanted the money I raised to remain within Cornwall.

The Civil Aviation Authority does not allow fundraising for a Wing Walk as it is classified as a professional display activity. There is, however, a strict weight limit, so I decided to ask people to sponsor me for my weight loss in order to complete the Wing Walk.

My friends and family have been amazing and I have raised almost £2,000 for Cornwall Air Ambulance. My sister-in-law Lesley and her husband David – along with friends Pete and Sharon – held a Quiz Night at Penair School. My parents held a Coffee Morning in Goonhavern which was well-attended by friends in the village. My friends and colleagues at Cornwall Council – specifically the IT Department – have all been very generous and supportive. Of course, the Truro and Probus Slimming World Groups have been very generous and supportive.

The weather on the day of the wingwalk was perfect, with bright sunshine and clear skies, and the Wing Walk was just as amazing as I had imagined! Being on the top wing of an airplane and flying at 100mph, diving over the airfield and dipping the wings was such a great thrill. As soon as I got off the plane I wanted to go up and do it all over again!

I'm now looking for the next daring and adventurous challenge, and I have no doubt I’ll do it in aid of a worthwhile and fantastic charity: the Cornwall Air Ambulance Trust.