Julie McElroy, a determined young adventurer from Glasgow who has overcome severe disabilities to achieve the highest level of the John Muir Award received recognition for her achievements from presenter and broadcaster Dougie Vipond on 18 November.
Julie was born with cerebral palsy which has resulted in mobility problems, walking difficulties and speech impairment along with manual dexterity problems. She is also profoundly deaf and wears two hearing aids, but she has refused to let these disabilities stop her completing her John Muir Conserver Award.
In the course of meeting the four challenges of her Award Julie has trekked in the Himalayas, joined the Lomond Mountain Rescue Team on manoeuvre, climbed Helvellyn, England’s third highest mountain, paddled the length of Loch Shiel and led other disabled people on a three-day expedition on Arran.
Julie said: “I wanted to experience a totally new existence and challenges that are different from the ones I experience in everyday life. Being in the wild allows me to establish myself more as a person.
“I love the outdoors because it allows you to rebalance yourself as a person. I love coming up with new ideas and I wanted to lead by example.
“The buzz of the outdoors began for me when I was a child and I now want to unleash opportunities where other disabled people can climb a mountain, get involved in taking responsibility for the natural environment and most importantly enjoy the fun, adventure and exploration of the wild.”
Broadcaster and presenter Dougie Vipond presented Julie with her certificate at the Loch Lomond & Trossachs National Park Headquarters in Balloch.
Dougie said: “Adventure is important, it challenges and stimulates us, and it can lead us to wonderful wild places we perhaps wouldn’t normally visit. Julie’s achievements are a reminder to us all that experiencing adventure and challenge in Scotland, and further afield, should be open to all regardless of age, ability or background.
“Congratulations to Julie for demonstrating her drive and determination in completing her John Muir Conserver Award. Wild places and the spirit of adventure can only benefit from being championed by her.”
The John Muir Conserver Award is the highest level of the John Muir Award, which is an environmental award scheme focused on wild places. The Award encourages awareness and responsibility for the natural environment, in a spirit of fun, adventure and exploration. It is the educational initiative of the John Muir Award.
John Hutchison, chairman of the John Muir Trust said: “By getting involved in the John Muir Award, Julie McElroy has set an example to us all. Not only has she refused to see her disability as a barrier to experiencing and caring for wild places, but she has actively encouraged others to do the same.
“Congratulations to Julie on her huge achievement, and I’m pleased that Julie’s John Muir Conserver Award helps recognise and celebrate her own spirit of adventure and challenge.”