Former nursery manager Anna-Marie McLachlan moved from Lockerbie to Oxfordshire nearly six years ago to become a full-time carer for Meriel Park, a nine-year-old girl who has a form of muscular dystrophy known as Nemaline myopathy.
The rare muscle condition, which has no known treatment or cure, causes extreme muscle weakness throughout the body, respiratory problems and issues with walking and eating, meaning Meriel requires round-the-clock care.
Some members of Meriel’s family still live in the Lockerbie area, and she and Anna-Marie bonded over their Scottish connection and a love of sport – Meriel is a keen swimmer and Anna-Marie is a former karate champion.
In 2015 Meriel was nominated for a WellChild Award by one of her teachers and receiving her award from Prince Harry inspired her to create a ‘Dream List’ of all the things she wanted to achieve.
Top of this list was to climb a mountain, and Meriel and Anna-Marie started making plans to climb Mount Snowdon and place a ‘Dream Stone’ (nicknamed Sam) at the top.
With the help of Meriel’s teacher Mr Kruze, this plan soon developed into the Dream Stone Triathlon.
Meriel completed a swim challenge with assistance from Anna-Marie, before passing Sam the Stone to Mr Kruze who cycled the 174 miles to Mount Snowdon.
Sam was then returned to Meriel so she could place it at the top of Snowdon’s summit the following day.
Anna-Marie said: “Since accomplishing the Dream Stone triathlon in September 2016, Meriel and I immediately started working towards another joint goal, transforming our triathlon adventure into a story book written from Sam the Stone’s point of view.
“The book is called The Dream Stone, a fictional tale blended with real events during the triathlon and other valued personal experiences.
“Written by myself, using many of Meriel’s ideas, it is also partly illustrated by Meriel and her elder brother.
“Meriel has been involved through every stage, from providing ideas, helping with website creation and even pitching our book to the voluntary design team.
“Our aim for the book is to raise awareness of Nemaline myopathy, and if we can inspire other children and their families to make the most of life we will be overjoyed.”
All proceeds from The Dream Stone book will be donated to the MAP-Nemaline fund at Muscular Dystrophy UK (MDUK).
Copies of the book can be ordered at www.thedreamstonespirit.org