A basketball-mad grandmother with Multiple Sclerosis (MS) who has made an inspirational return to the court is to be strapped to the outside of an airplane in a bid to raise funds to compete in a top international tournament.
Karen Fulton, 63, initially wanted to be fired out of a cannon for the incredibly daring effort to raise 3,000 – the majority of which will go to a cancer charity.
However, when that plan was thwarted Karen, originally from Gorton and who lived in Reddish for 20 years, decided to take on a wing walk instead.
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In just a few weeks’ time, she will be attached to the wing of a Boeing Stearman Biplane for over 10 minutes as it rises to a height of 15.00 feet and travels at speeds of up to 135 mph above an airfield in Yorkshire.
Mum-of-two and grandma-of-three Karen wants to raise money for the charity Breast Cancer Now as her family has been touched by it. But some of the money will also go towards helping the Great Britain over-60s female basketball team, of which Karen is a key member, competes in The Fimba European Maxibasketball Championship this summer.
It is a remarkable achievement for Karen whose career playing the sport she loves changed forever when she was diagnosed with MS aged just 27.
The Chronic disease affects the brain and spinal cord, causing a wide range of potential symptoms, including problems with vision, arm or leg movement, sensation or balance.
In Karen’s case, it affected particularly affected the limbs on her right side and for the next 11 years, she used a wheelchair everyday. However she did not let that stop pursuing her passion de ella, and after a year Karen took up wheelchair basketball and also became coach of the GB women’s wheelchair basketball team.
Now her in her 60s, her condition has progressed to get the point that she is now able to take the basketball court without the use of a chair.
Her stints on the court still have to be short. “I have good days and bad days” she says. “And some days I can’t play because my body won’t let me. And that doesn’t change. But I’m just happy that I do have that opportunity now, and that it makes it even more important to me.
“It’s a family thing. It’s a big part of my life and has been for over 40 years.” She has been selected to play for the GB over 60’s women basketball team in the Fimba Championship being held in Malaga in Spain from June 24 to July 3 this year.
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However the team is completely un-funded and the money will go towards travel, accommodation, and other such costs. She says it will be an emotional moment when she walks out on the court to represent her country, as she had feared her career may be over when she was first diagnosed.
“At that point I actually thought I was dying, I thought I had cancer because I lost so much weight and couldn’t move my body. I’d gone from being able to do quite a lot to not even being able to wash myself So at that point, I wasn’t thinking about basketball at all.
“I never thought I’d get back. I knew I would always be around it and help but I never thought I would play again. So this is a dream come true. For anyone at this age, never mind someone with a disability.
“Who’d have ever thought they’d be playing sport and representing GB at 63. The whole team is inspirational, we have girls on the team who are 70. It’s been an amazing journey for us all.”
Karen, who now lives in Liverpool with wife Cathy, 64, says she will have to ‘make sure I’ve got waterproof mascara on’ as she’s expecting it to be a tear-jerking moment when she walks out onto the court.
Her passion for basketball is only matched by her generosity and passion for raising money for good causes.
Amongst her previous exploits are a tandem skydive whilst needing to use a wheelchair, canoeing 100 miles around the Cheshire Ring – a circuit of six canals – dancing through the night and organizing sponsored pram races and sponsored silences.
However, she admitted: “This the craziest one I’ve done. My family thinks I’m bonkers.”
“I wanted to do something a bit different and a bit crazy” she continued. “I’ve been doing things for charities for years now but I didn’t just want to do your standard run or swim or something.
“I wanted to be fired out of a cannon but they wouldn’t allow it due to insurance or health and safety. I’d also have had to wait for a circus to come round or something like that and time is of the essence so that’s where the idea for the wing walk came from.
“The only training you get is a half an hour talk on the day. The first time I get up there will be when I do it for real.
“I think on the day the adrenalin will take over and I obviously won’t want to let people down. But am I s****g myself? Yes of course I am. I wouldn’t be normal if I wasn’ t. But will I do it? Yes.”
Daughter Kelly said: “She’s bonkers, but we wouldn’t have her any other way. Her energy and drive is just inspirational. We’re just so proud of her.”
For more information about Karen’s fundraising, or to donate, click here.