A woman has said she feels a “massive sense of accomplishment” after completing 50 challenges in 500 days to make sure her 50th birthday was celebrated in a memorable way and following the loss of her parents to dementia.
Shelle Luscombe, 51, from Hampton in London, told the PA news agency that she “wanted to do something memorable” when she turned 50, so set about asking friends, family members and even the general public to set her challenges in exchange for a donation to charity.
She also wanted the challenges to have a link to dementia, so decided to fundraise for Alzheimer’s Research UK – beginning her first challenge in July 2021, driving a barge up the Thames and broadcasting a radio show live from the boat.
Ms Luscombe’s father Ian had Parkinson’s Disease for many years before developing Parkinson’s Dementia a couple of years before he died, aged 75, in December 2017.
Her mother Sue died aged 76 at the end of February 2022 from Alzheimer’s and Vascular Dementia, when Ms Luscombe was midway through her challenges.
Ms Luscombe said that the challenges served as a “welcome focus” for her to “plough her energy and grief into”.
“I was just about to complete challenge number 25 when mum died”, the self-employed singer, compere and event organiser added.
“I’ve been able to use the challenges to learn new skills e.g. playing the guitar, paddle-boarding or learning to drum.
“It feels good to have finished the challenges and there’s a massive sense of accomplishment there”.
Some of the challenges included climbing over the O2, performing stand-up comedy and learning to unicycle.
“Oh my God, the bruises,” she said about her attempts to unicycle.
“When I first started, I thought ‘how on earth am I going to balance on this little thing?’ It seems to sort of defy reason and science really.
“Half the battle is mounting the unicycle properly and finding your balance and I got quite good at doing that bit, but then I struggled to get the momentum to move forward.”
She added that despite falling off the unicycle about 50 times, her persistence paid off as she managed to do a bit of unicycling, even if only for around 20 seconds.
The challenge she is the proudest of was running a 5k at Eton Dorney Lake in Windsor in October 2022.
“If you told me a year ago that I would run 5k, I would absolutely not have believed you because I am not built for running in any way,” she said.
“But I quite enjoying running now, bizarrely and I would love to keep going with it.”
The most “hilarious” challenge she took part in was the ‘chubby bunny’ challenge – which sees people try to stuff as many marshmallows into their mouth, saying “chubby bunny” after each one – because her friend’s 14-year-old daughter, who set her the challenge, was present when it commenced and egged Ms Luscombe on and was “just loving the whole experience”.
Another challenge she was particularly fond of was playing the drums.
“I certainly fell in love with drumming, and want to do more of it,” she said.
“I booked a slot at an open mic night and begged some friendly musicians to add the vocals, guitar and bass.
“Then it was just a matter of dragging a few folk along to watch and getting on with it. It was so much fun. I can testify that drumming is good therapy.”
She said that the support she has received for the challenges has been “absolutely amazing”.
“When I was completing a challenge that someone set me, they would usually come and watch and do it with me, or be there to cheer me on”, she said.
“I am very blessed – most people who have set me a challenge have made a donation and then made another donation when I’ve completed it.”
One of Ms Luscombe’s main aims for the challenges was to raise awareness and funds for research into dementia.
“The chances of people getting dementia are increasing – one in three people born today will develop dementia in their lifetime – and if we don’t research it, if we don’t learn about what causes it, we’re never going to get to a point where we can prevent it,” she said.
“So research is absolutely key as far as I’m concerned.
“Seeing just how much everyone has got behind what I’ve been doing has meant the world.”
Lucy Haines, fundraising officer at Alzheimer’s Research UK, said: “From day one Shelle has thrown herself into her 50 at 50 challenge and it has been incredible to follow her journey and find out about each of her challenges along the way.
“We are really grateful to Shelle for not only raising thousands of pounds for dementia research but also raising vital awareness of dementia and the diseases that cause it.”
More information on the challenges can be found here: https://shelleluscombe.co.uk/50-at-50/.
Details on the fundraiser can be found here: https://www.justgiving.com/fundraising/shelleluscombeofficial