WHEN Mick Kirkbride tackles the Pennine Way he will not just be raising money for charity - he will be paying tribute to his two younger brothers who died last year.

It will also mark the start of the healing process after a year in which he also lost all his possessions in a house fire and was rushed to hospital after a suspected heart attack.

He said: "Last year was somewhat of a personal disaster. This is my way of trying to be positive for the future and raise money for research into cancer and meningitis, from which my brothers died."

Mick, who now lives in Donnington, was brought up in Shildon with his two brothers, Ian and Stephen.

In January last year youngest brother Stephen died suddenly after contracting pneumococcal meningitis.

He was only 30-years-old and left a nine-month-old baby daughter Abby and partner Ann.

Days after Stephen's funeral, Ian Kirkbride, who lived in Shildon, was diagnosed with throat cancer. He died in October.

Mick said: "There weren't many options open to him. He chose to have a massive operation from which most would not survive."

Despite the disfiguring surgery, Mick said his brother never complained. "He was selfless and dignified throughout."

Throughout the year Mick spent a lot of time travelling between his Donnington home and the North-East and had to take a lot of time off from his job as a brake systems engineer for Bombardier Transportation in Derby.

He said: "Fortunately, the firm were really good and they are now backing me all the way to do this walk. I am really grateful for their support."

Mick has chosen to complete the northern part of the Pennine Way because it is an area which was special to the three brothers. He is unable to take on the whole challenge, from Derbyshire to the Scottish borders, because of work commitments.

He will be joined along the route by his youngest son, Andrew, Stephen's partner Ann and Stephen and Ian's friends.

He wants to raise money for research into both illnesses.

Some of the cash will be given to Middlesbrough Hospital's intensive care unit, where Stephen was treated, and Darlington Memorial Hospital where Ian was treated.

Mr Kirkbride said: "I hope that eventually cures are found for these scourges and that in the future other families do not have to suffer the fate of ours.''

Anyone wishing to sponsor Mick can contact him on 07957 368229.