Kelda Wood has been recommended to Her Majesty the Queen for the honour of an MBE in the New Years Honour List 2021.
An accident in 2002 left Kelda with a leg injury that ended her dreams of becoming an Olympic horse rider. After rebuilding her confidence, Kelda changed her focus and eventually retrained as an outdoor instructor. In 2010 she launched the charity Climbing Out to help young people who have been through life changing mental or physical trauma. The 5-day outdoor activity programme offers funded places to enable participants to rebuild their confidence, self-esteem and motivation.
Kelda has represented Great Britain as a member of the GB Paracanoe squad and was selected as a member of the Adaptive Grand Slam Team climbing Aconcagua, the highest peak in South America. In January 2017 she became the first recorded adaptive female to summit the mountain.
In December 2018, Kelda set off to row solo across the Atlantic with the aim of inspiring others, raising awareness about mental and physical trauma, and raising funds for Climbing Out. Each day she rowed for a different young person, saying, “It was never about me, I wanted to reach people.” 76 days later, Kelda had rowed 3,500 nautical miles, becoming the first para-rower to solo row the Atlantic. She raised over £50,000 for Climbing Out in the process. Her charity’s motto is, ‘It’s not about saying I can’t, it’s about saying how can I?’
Kelda said, “There are many people who have played a part in my journey, but there are four in particular who stand out as being fundamental in shaping my path. They have nurtured, mentored and supported me and I feel this MBE isn’t a reward for the things I’ve done - it’s a reward for them - for giving me the opportunities that have brought me to this point. So I’d like to say a big thank you to Marc Woods, Jo Hampton, Dave Bunting and Martin Hewitt.
“I first met Marc Woods on an expedition in the Himalayas for the Annapurna circuit. Marc is a single leg amputee, who lost his leg to cancer when he was 17. He went on to win numerous Paralympic medals, became a motivational speaker and trustee of the teenage cancer trust, and to me he became a mentor, guardian angel and big brother. He really helped me through my injury and at numerous points on my journey. He is an incredible guy who deserves an MBE himself!
“I used to ride for Jo Hampton when I was eventing. I was riding for her when I had the leg injury and she was an incredible support - constantly in the hospital with me. She really helped me get back into eventing and made sure I was ready. She was a huge support through my whole eventing career and has kept in touch ever since. Again without her, I really would have struggled to get through that difficult period.
“Marc Woods introduced me to Dave Bunting, who is an Expedition Leader and Outdoor Development Manager at Carnegie Great Outdoors. When I first came up with the idea of Climbing Out, numerous people said to me that it was never going to work – but Dave said to me, “We can do that - you find the young people, you source the finances and we can help deliver the programmes.” Dave was key in the setting up and progressing of Climbing Out, and I have so much respect and gratitude for him.
“Finally, Martin Hewitt, the founder of the Adaptive Grand Slam. Martin gave me the opportunity to climb Aconcagua. Many people wouldn’t have given me a chance because of how my leg was during the training expeditions but his faith in me enabled me to take on that challenge and reach the summit, and I learned so much from the experience. It changed everything for me.
“I would also like to dedicate this honour to my Dad, who sadly died just 11 weeks before I found out about the MBE. He was always very quiet and reserved, but he really showed me how to be the person I wanted to be. I would have loved for him to know I received an MBE and I hope it would have made him proud.”
Kelda has recently launched ‘Creating Momentum’ on social media, as a place to inspire people to adapt and overcome physical and mental challenges. She has challenged herself to take on her first triathlon next year, and will be documenting her journey online.
Due to the Coronavirus pandemic, it is unknown when Kelda will be able to receive her honour at an investiture.
For more information on Climbing Out visit climbingout.org.uk.
Kelda Wood – Founder of Climbing Out
Kelda completing her solo row across the Atlantic