Mission to give girl a chance of a lifetime

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A BLACKPOOL firefighter is used to challenges.

But missions rarely come as daunting as the one Neil Morris is about to embark upon – a charity Three Peaks Yacht Race to raise funds so a disabled former Blackpool girl can swim with dolphins in Florida.

Little Lottie Johnson was born with a virus called CMV (congenital cyto-megla virus) which left her brain damaged and totally dependent on others for the rest of her life.

Neil said: "She is blind, largely deaf and she can't move around on her own.

"But she can hear loud clapping, and giggles when you pick her up. She is lovely."

Neil, a firefighter with White Watch at Blackpool's Forest Gate station, will join two of his running buddies from North Fylde Athletics Club for the gruelling event in June.

His team mates are Steve Gregg, a guitarist with popular local band Fearless Brothers, and sailor Dave Ferrier.

Starting from Barmouth in North Wales on June 21, 25 yachts from around the world will sail to Caernarfon where two members of each five-person crew will leap from the yacht and run 28 miles to the summit of Snowdon, the highest peak in Wales, and back.

There the rest of the crew will be ready for the runners' return so they can sail to Whitehaven in the Lake District. From there, the runners, will tackle an 11-mile mountain bike to Ennerdale Youth Hostel.

Here they will swap their bikes for running shoes to complete the 22-mile run to the summit of Scafell, the highest peak in England, and get back to Whitehaven Harbour to set sail for Fort William in Scotland.

From there the runners tackle the last 23-mile run to the summit of Ben Nevis, the highest peak in Scotland.

The first runners back from the summit of Ben Nevis will be the winners and the teams have a week to complete the challenging event in its 25th year.

Lottie's dad Gary Johnson grew up in Blackpool before travelling the world and

returning to the UK to train to be a nurse in Sheffield where he still works and lives with his wife Catherine, Lottie and her two brothers Jake and George.

Neil said: "Our intention is not for a therapy session with the dolphins but for Lottie to have a once-in-a-lifetime experience with these very special creatures, that she and her family will never forget."

If anyone would like to help and support the team by making a small donation it would be greatly appreciated. They can contact Neil Morris at Blackpool Fire Station on 01253 302524.