Determined dad takes fundraising to new heights with abseil

Friday 29 September 2023

Three abseil participants. In the middle is a dad in a pink top holding his daughter.

Mark with Sofia and abseil teammates Charmaine and Alessandra.

Three hundred and fifty daredevils abseiled 160ft down St Thomas’ Hospital last weekend – including a dad who has now raised more than £14,000 for charity.

Participants abseiled 14 floors to help raise vital funds for three charities supporting Guy's and St Thomas' NHS Foundation Trust, helping the hospitals go above and beyond what the NHS can provide. The St Thomas' Abseil, sponsored by Livingbridge, raised money for Guy’s Cancer Charity, Guy’s & St Thomas’ Charity, and Evelina London Children’s Charity.

The abseil was Mark Verrall’s latest challenge to fundraise for the hospital that saved his daughter’s life.

Born in May 2022, Mark’s daughter, Sofia, had to be resuscitated at birth and went without oxygen for a period of time. She was blue lighted to the neonatal intensive care unit (NICU) at Evelina London Children’s Hospital where she received lifesaving care.

Sofia remained in the intensive care unit for a month before returning home to south east London for the first time.

Now 16 months old, Sofia continues to hit key milestones and is surprising everyone with her determination and fight. Mark said:

She is seeing, hearing, giggling, smiling, interacting, and is the brightest little girl you could imagine. Sofia loves art, books, and understands both English and Italian. She is my inspiration and has climbed more mountains than I ever will.


Although she still has a big journey ahead of her, she is doing incredibly. Sofia is a beautiful little girl and without Evelina London she may not be here today and the same could be said for so many babies.


I was truly amazed by the work the NICU do for so many families with so much love and dedication.

Mark took on the abseil less than two weeks after cycling a mammoth 1000km from Loch Ness in Scotland to Evelina London Children’s Hospital.

Together with six friends, Mark completed the formidable distance in just seven days. Along the way they faced 30-degree heat, and climbed more than the height of Mount Everest. On the final day of their journey, the fleet were joined by an additional 15 cyclists, all supporting Mark’s incredible fundraising efforts. Mark said:

Throughout my fundraising challenges everyone’s been calling me a superstar, but I’m not, the real stars are the nurses and doctors at Evelina London who saved Sofia’s life.

Mark’s abseil, cycle and charity football tournaments have brought his team’s fundraising total to a staggering £14,000. Along the way he has been supported by friends, colleagues, his football team and the cycling community at Outcast Cyclists. Visit Mark's fundraising page. 

Cycling team outside St Thomas' Hospital at night. The team are holding an Evelina London Children's Charity banner.

Mark with his cycling team at St Thomas' hospital.

Participants came from far and wide to take part in the St Thomas’ abseil on Friday 22 and Saturday 23 September. Ross Thomas, an HGV mechanic from South Devon, signed up for the challenge to give something back to his son’s clinical team, who have become like family.

Ross’s 5-year-old son, Stanley, has achondroplasia, the most common form of dwarfism. He has been receiving specialist care at Evelina London Children’s Hospital since he was four months old. Stanley cheered on his dad as he abseiled down the hospital, whilst having raised over £2,000 for Evelina London Children’s Charity.

Ross holding Stanley, they are both smiling, with St Thomas' hospital behind them.

Ross and Stanley (Photo credit: Dave Bird).

Alongside patients, friends and families, over 130 NHS staff took to the heights, including the adventurous ‘London NHS Blood and Transplant (NHSBT) Organ Donation team’. Team members Waqas Akhtar, Georgina Hobbiger, Liz Paterson and Laura Kendall work across the Trust to support patients, families and clinicians with the organ donation process. They abseiled in pink to raise awareness of the life-saving gift of organ donation.

3 people in pink t shirts and orange helmets smiling as they abseil down St Thomas' hospital building.

Waqas, Liz and Laura from the London NHS Blood and Transplant (NHSBT) Organ Donation team (Photo credit: Dave Bird).

Alison Rulton-Reed, Head of Community and Events at the three charities, said:

We are so incredibly grateful to everyone who took part in the St Thomas’ abseil this year, and raised over £225,000 so far for Guy’s Cancer Charity, Guy’s & St Thomas’ Charity, and Evelina London Children’s Charity.


The money raised is helping to fund life-saving equipment, life-changing research and better facilities for patients here – above and beyond what the NHS can provide. Our fundraisers, like Mark, Ross, and the London NHSBT Organ Donation Team, are a vital part of our community, and we couldn’t provide this support if it wasn’t for their incredible commitment to our hospitals.

Last updated: September 2023

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