A courageous cervical cancer survivor has completed her most daring challenge to date – stripping off for a saucy charity calendar.
Brave Ali Alcock, from Corwen, took part in a thrilling sky dive and acrobatic wing walking stunt in a week of charity exploits and she’s now setting pulses racing in a different way in aid of the MacMillan Cancer Support.
Ali bared all along with 20 friends and family in a naked photoshoot in a friend’s back garden and a host of other locations – with just a prop or two protecting their modesty.
The calendar, unveiled at a charity race night at Stanton House pub in Chirk, is the icing on the cake of an adrenalin-pumped week in which she has taken on a magnificent seven challenges in memory of her beloved cousin, paratrooper Mark ‘Weeksy’ Weeks, of Johnstown, near Wrexham, who lost his courageous battle with a terminal brain tumour last September.
The activities have been generously sponsored by long-term supporters Ifor Williams Trailers whose company director Carole Williams donated £2,200 towards the appeal, covering the entire printing and production costs of the charity calendar and more.
The donation enables Ali to donate 100 per cent of the money she raises to Macmillan, which supported her during her hour of need when she was diagnosed with cervical cancer in 2015.
It has been an exhilarating time for the social worker who not only conquered her fear of heights but also bumped into her showbiz idols – former international cricketer turned TV personality Freddy Flintoff MBE and comedian Jason Manford – in a chance meeting at the summit of Snowdon.
Ali’s aiming to top the £20,000 she raised last year thanks to her bravado – and says the calendar will net at least £3,000 of that sum if she can sell all 300 copies at £10 each.
“Everyone was so brave. It’s a big thing to ask people to do,” said Ali, who works for Denbighshire County Council.
“Obviously there are props and it’s tastefully done but I can’t thank them enough.
“My cousin’s brother let us do the majority of the photoshoot in his garden – thankfully it was very secluded although the cows in the field got a bit of a shock!
“The hikers were amazing – they did it on the top of the mountain and I can tell you it was absolutely freezing. We had snow, wind, hail – you name it – but fair play, they took everything off and really did have a lot of fun.
“I do try and put the fun into fundraising. Even though it’s a very serious cause, people know that already and you don’t need to keep telling them. You need to have as much fun as possible.
“It was daunting, but I just thought I have to lead by example. I will never ask anyone to do anything in my fundraising that I wouldn’t do myself. I was one of the first to get my clothes off!”
The calendar features Ali in a field raising a glass of bubbly to the sky in memory of her cousin.
In another shot, Weeksy’s pals are snapped in their birthday suits in their friend’s bar.
The photography was done by Huw Jones from Huw Jones Photography in Corwen, who kindly donated his services free of charge, while hair and makeup was provided by fellow calendar model Lisa Hughes from Guys and Molls in Chirk.
The fundraising week kicked off with a hike to the summit of Snowdon, accompanied by more than 40 supporters, with a much faster descent on the Velocity 2 Zipline the following day, soaring at speeds of up to 100 miles an hour over the Penrhyn Quarry in Bethesda.
“I kept getting messages from others that Freddy Flintoff and Jason Manford were at the top of the mountain and I wasn’t sure if they were just teasing!” said Ali.
“I heard they were going off the mountain by 3pm – so I ran down the mountain to get to them! They did a video supporting my ‘Week for Weeksy’ and lots of selfies with my hikers. Everyone had a lot of fun and thankfully we got them all down safely.”
The TV personalities weren’t the first celebrities to endorse Ali’s fundraising adventures. She also received the ‘Royle’ seal approval from top comedy actor Ricky Tomlinson who recorded a video urging people to support her and personally chipped in for the cause.
Ali worked with five local schools to make a video promoting Makaton, a language programme that uses signs together with speech and symbols, which has already achieved 5,000 hits on her Facebook page.
Later in the week, Ali returned to the same airfield in Gloucestershire she completed a 10-minute wing-walk at altitudes of up to 10,000ft. This time, the plane also did aerobatics, including a loop the loop, while she performed a series of barrel rolls and spins with just a leaning post for company.
As if that wasn’t enough adventure for one week her nerve-wracking diary also featured a sky dive from 15,000ft above the Tilstock airfield in Shropshire.
“When you first go up during the wing walk the wind resistance is quite brutal,” she said.
“You can breathe OK but the wind resistance is quite harsh. When you go upside down, the pilot cuts the engine for a few seconds and there’s this moment of serenity where the wind resistance stops. A couple of times I was even brave enough to put my arms out!
“This is my motivation, I’m so passionate about doing all this. When you ask people to put their hands in their pockets you have to make the things you do worthy challenges.”
Ali began fundraising for Macmillan six years ago and has since raised more than £40,000.
She credits a routine smear test in 2015 as having helped save her life, as it led to her being diagnosed with cervical cancer and undergoing a hysterectomy.
Ali was given the all-clear and has dedicated much of her spare time since then to paying back Macmillan Cancer Support for the help nurses provided while she was receiving treatment.
“I do get a buzz out of it. Once I got the all-clear, going through something like that gives you a new perspective,” she said.
“I cannot thank everyone enough for their support they’ve given me, it’s totally overwhelming.
“The donation from Ifor Williams, in particular, is crucial as it means the money I raise can go straight to Macmillan and I am so grateful. They are right behind me all the way and they let me know that.”
IWT director Carole Williams said: “Ali’s drive and passion is absolutely unstoppable and we are enormously proud of all her efforts for Macmillan.
“She is an inspiration and has shown that with courage and good humour, it’s possible to transform something traumatic and frightening into something positive for the benefit of others.
“We are delighted Ali has conquered her fears in such a dramatic and exhilarating way. I wish her all the best with her future fundraising exploits and hope that everyone gets behind her latest efforts by snapping up their copy of this fantastic calendar.”
The fundraising week concluded with a charity football match with games between teams from Corwen and Rhos, where “Weeksy” lived.
The event saw two matches played – one between Corwen Veterans and their counterparts from Rhos and Corwen current team versus Llangollen. Both were playing for the Mark Weeks Memorial Trophy in what will now become a yearly event.
Calendars are priced at £10 and are available to purchase on Ali’s Facebook page. She has also set up a Just Giving account for people who would like to make a donation to Macmillan: https://bit.ly/3MJyv9J