Media release: Women of the Year Awards 2010 honour Scot, Karen Darke, as this Year’s Woman of Achievement

THE 2010 Women of the Year Awards has recognised the amazing achievements of Scottish woman, Karen Darke, who, despite being paralysed, has scaled mountains and embarked on a number of challenging adventures by sit-skiing and hand-cycling, by awarding her with the Woman of Achievement Award 2010.

Says a spokesperson: “The awards recognises exceptional women and no more is this quite so acute than the adventurous Scottish woman, Karen Darke, presented with the Woman of Achievement Award 2010 for her strength and determination in overcoming a cliff fall aged 21 which left her paralysed.

“This did not deter her in life as she went to scale mountains and embark on number of challenging adventures, raising thousands of pounds for charity.

“Prior to the accident, Karen was a keen runner, climber and all round outdoor addict, but, at the age of 21, she fell off a cliff and became paralysed from the chest down. There begins the opening chapter of her book, ‘If You Fall…’, and the beginning of an extraordinary new life.”

Karen begins: “Just the night before my accident, I said I would rather die than be paralysed, but, little did I know what lay ahead. Instead, I found fortune in my misfortune, inspiration from people in similar and more challenging situations all around me, and began pursuing alternative ways to access the outdoors.

“Not being able to move or feel anything below my chest level has of course been a challenge, but I’ve come to learn that nothing is impossible if we set our mind and our efforts to it.”

The spokesperson added: “Having to challenge both her own physical and mental barriers, Karen was able to complete many trips that others, including herself, believed impossible; from marathons and triathlons, to kayaking, sit-skiing and hand-cycling in some of the most inhospitable places on the planet.

“These trips have included a crossing of the Tien Shan and Karakoram mountains of Central Asia on a hand bike (1997 and raising £12,000 for charity), handcycling the length of the Japanese archipelago (2000), sea kayaking a 1,200 mile length of the Canada – Alaska coastline (2003), crossing the Indian Himalaya by handcycle (2006) and skiing the Valle Blanche on a sit ski.

“The most recent and physically challenging adventure was a 600 kilometre traverse of the Greenland ice cap, a month long journey across one the world’s last great expanses of wilderness. The winds can reach 200 miles per hour and temperatures drop below 40 degrees.

“This was especially challenging as paralysis restricts the regulation of one’s body temperature, however with hard work, determination and a great amount of support, it was a journey that became possible.

“As well as these incredible achievements, the award also recognises Karen’s success in climbing the kilometre high overhanging precipice of El Capitan, a giant granite rock face in Yosemite National Park, USA, which was a huge mental challenge, overcoming her doubts about climbing and dread of heights, getting back on the ropes and working through the fear.”

Explained Karen: “4,000 pull-ups felt easy in comparison to the mental obstacles.”


Notes for editors:

Has own company:

Karen speaks from the heart, and inspires audiences in schools, organisations and businesses around the globe. She shares personal stories focused on overcoming challenge, embracing change and achieving the ‘unachievable’. As a learning and development specialist, and with personal experience of working in corporate and public sectors, she is able to connect with a wide range of clients, large audiences and small teams.

Modest and thoughtful, Karen is a highly sought-after and successful speaker, whose stories inspire all those who take time to reflect on what it took to achieve them.

Some of her clients included Unilever, Shell UK, Halliburton, Microsoft, Braun, Novartis, Institute of Directors, SportScotland, a collection of UK universities and other private and public organisations.

Karen has a passion for the outdoor environment and has participated in a range of expeditions to remote parts of the world. Paralysed at the T3 vertebrae, Karen has developed T3 Exped, a branch of Inspire and Impact Ltd. delivering talks and interactive events to schools and businesses. The T3 theme stands for tenacity, technology and teamwork. See for more information.

The 2010 Businesswoman of the Year finalists

Year on year, the prestigious title attracts an outstanding field of candidates and 2010 is no exception.  The seven finalists drawn from every walk of life has each made a significant contribution to the financial success and performance of their organisation:

* Louise Bennett, chief executive of Coventry and Warwickshire Chamber of Commerce;

* Julie Moore, chief executive of University Hospitals Birmingham NHS Foundation Trust;

* Suzie Norton, chief executive of Birmingham based Screen West Midlands;

* Alison Wetton, founder and chief executive of All About Weight, headquartered in Crewe;

* Kavita Jnagal and Rani Upelle, co-founders of Simply Recruitment, based in Birmingham; and

* Fiona Toye, chief executive of Toye, Kenning and Spencer, headquartered in Birmingham.

The judges were Ben Gulliford, Regional Centre head for Barclays Wealth , Silla Maizey, management board director, British Airways, Gavin Tyzack, director of Sales Southern Division, Hilton Hotels UK, Geoff Cousins, managing director of Jaguar UK, Tracy Westall, UK Public Sector sales director in the UK, SCC

About the event

Now in its 28th year of fundraising success, the Women of the Year Luncheon and Awards is the best kept secret outside of London and a sell-out, year on year, the event is attended by hundreds of high profile and talented female guests. The 2010 event sponsors were Barclays Wealth, British Airways, Harvey Nichols, Hilton Birmingham Metropole, Jaguar, SCC and The Challenge Factor.

The event raises vital funds for the national charity, Vitalise, which provides essential respite breaks and other services for disabled people, visually impaired people, and carers. Proceeds from the Awards are donated directly to Vitalise. Over the years, the awards have raised over £500,000 for the charity.

Follow Woman of the Year on LinkedIn and Twitter @2010WOTY

About Vitalise

Vitalise is a national charity providing essential services for disabled people, visually-impaired people and carers. Vitalise provides short breaks for disabled people and carers, with 24-hour nursing care on-call and personal support, at three accessible UK centres. A fourth centre in Cornwall provides accessible activity and adventure breaks for children and adults with disabilities. All of Vitalise’s centres offer a wide range of activities and excursions. Vitalise also organises group holidays for blind and visually impaired people, accompanied by sighted guides.

Media contacts and images

Beatrice Mocci Tel 0141 339 4175 / Email

Louise Acton Tel 07595 355 938 / Email

Colin Brook Vitalise – Mobile 07960 464 728

For more information on Karen Darke

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