Couple to trek 2,660 miles from Mexico to Canada to raise funds for local hospice St Barnabas House

Francesa and John Roberts

Francesca and John Roberts are raising funds for St Barnabas House, the hospice at which Francesca’s father Ian Aitken, who lived in Worthing, spent his final days.

The pair are taking a six-month sabbatical from their respective jobs in order to walk the full length of the Pacific Crest Trail, a total of 2,660 miles.

Setting off from Campo in Southern California at the Mexican border in April, the pair are hoping to reach the finishing point at Manning Park on the Canadian border 173 days later in September.

Their journey will include 20 days of trekking in the mountains as they take a detour to climb Mount Whitney, the highest point in California at 14,505ft.

Francesca, 30 was born in Shoreham and lived locally in Thakeham and Ashington until leaving the area when she went to university. She now lives in Buckingham with her husband John, 37, who is originally from Wolverhampton.

John works as a pilot for Royal Mail while Francesca is a chiropractor and is planning to run her business from her laptop with her friend covering while she is away.

The pair are hoping to raise over £10,000 for St Barnabas House by doing the walk, in honour of Francesca’s father, Ian.

Francesca said: “My husband and I married on 1 September 2016, which I think was one of my dad’s favourite days. Looking back at the pictures and videos of him walking down the aisle, the smile on his face, is priceless.

“Unfortunately, the next time we saw him when we got back from our honeymoon, he was given the news that he had terminal cancer and only a few months to live.

“The cancer had spread from his pancreas (the primary) to his liver, to his lungs and was only found when he had a brain tumour, which affected his co-ordination, speech and understanding.”

Ian, who lived locally, spent his final weeks at St Barnabas House, where he passed away on Monday 13 February 2017.

Francesca’s father, Ian Aitken, on her wedding day

Francesca added: “The care the nurses and doctors gave him during his three-week stay was most astounding to witness. It was given with such compassion, respect and the utmost control to ensure his dignity in his last moments here.

“Death can’t be a comfortable experience, and when it is long and drawn out I can’t think of any other way I would like to be cared for, especially if I can’t do things for myself anymore.”

The cost of all of the care services provided by St Barnabas House is over £6 million a year, and only 21% of those costs are covered by statutory funding.

Knowing that hospices receive very little government funding, Francesca calculated that the care her father received at the hospice would have cost roughly £13,000. “In my opinion that is money well spent,” she said.

Regarding the challenge itself, Francesca said: “To honour my father, my husband and I are embarking on an expedition to walk from Mexico to Canada along the Pacific Crest Trail, which is 2,660 miles from border to border.

“It will take approximately 5-6 months to complete and we will be carrying all of our gear and walking equipment, stopping in towns roughly once a week to resupply.

“The route will take us through the desert and then over the high Sierras, which will include a climb of Mount Whitney, America’s highest mountain. The trail ends eight miles over the border into Canada in Manning Park.”

Francesca and John are hoping that people will sponsor them 1p for every mile they cover, which works out at £26.60 in total.

Francesca said: “The money that is raised will ensure that the many people that are unfortunately going through this horrendous process that we call cancer are treated at the end with the dignity and the comfort that is deserved.”

If you would like to support Francesca and John in their challenge, you can sponsor them at

Fancy doing your own trek for St Barnabas House? Find a list of all of the treks run by the hospice at

If you would like more information about fundraising for St Barnabas House, please contact the Fundraising Team on 01903 254777 or


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