COLLEAGUES Esther Newman and Gemma Willis are training for one of the summer’s toughest challenges to raise money for charity.

The pair, who both work at Chruchfields Academy, in Salcombe Grove, are taking on the Stonehenge to Avebury Trek to raise money for the Alzheimer’s Society.

The trek is a tough 26-mile challenge across the neolithic sites on Salisbury Plain, starting at Stonehenge and finishing at the standing stones at Avebury.

Both Gemma, who has been the school’s receptionist for the past six years, and Esther, the school’s human resources and marketing manager, know first hand how tough the debilitating disease can be after watching their family members go through the disease.

Gemma was inspired to raise money for the Alzheimer’s Society in memory of her grandmother, who died two years ago.

The 28-year-old from Highworth, who has already done a skydive to raise money for the cause and recently became a Dementia Friend, said: “I’m fundraising in memory of my grandma Helen Thompson, who passed away two years ago. She had dementia and my mum cared for her for several years until she went into a home.

“I wanted to help because I feel this is a condition which is not as recognised as it should be. It doesn’t receive the support it should get and yet it’s known it will become increasingly common.”

Meanwhile, 39-year-old Esther wants to take part in the challenge after finding out her father might have the condition.

“My dad is currently awaiting diagnosis to find out if he has dementia and which type it could be, so this issue is very close to the hearts of my family right now,” she said.

“I’m taking part in the event to raise funds and awareness around dementia, both for those who live with the condition and for their loved ones.”

Gemma and Esther will take on the gruelling trek on Saturday. They both hope to raise £250 for the cause.

Alzheimer’s Society is a membership organisation, which works to improve the quality of life of people affected by dementia in England, Wales and Northern Ireland.

The word dementia describes a set of symptoms that may include memory loss and difficulties with thinking, problem-solving or language. Dementia is caused when the brain is damaged by illness such as Alzheimer’s disease or a series of strokes. Dementia is progressive, which means the symptoms will gradually get worse.