Friends to wear animal fancy dress for Three Peaks Challenge in memory of Sheffield pal

A group of former Sheffield pupils are preparing to take on the Yorkshire Three Peaks Challenge in memory of a schoolfriend who died from a rare brain tumour.

Thursday, 14th October 2021, 12:30 pm

Mechanical engineer John Rapinet, aged 30, will be joined by a group of four friends who all attended Tapton School, Crosspool, to raise money for Brain Tumour Research.

The challenge is on Saturday, October 16, and the schoolmates were inspired to raise funds after their good friend Aria Nikjooy lost his life to a medulloblastoma in February 2021. Aria, a paediatric doctor, died at the age of 30 following a three-year battle with the disease.

Accompanying John on the 25-mile circular route will be James Royle, 30, Reza Ali, 30, Simon Rolley, 30 and Chris Slack, 30. They’ll be summiting Pen-y-ghent, Whernside and Ingleborough, the three highest peaks in Yorkshire, dressed as characters from the children’s books Aria wrote.

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Simon Rolley, John Rapinet, Aria Nikjooy, Chris Slack, James Pettinger and Reza Ali (L-R).

John, who grew up in Crosspool and now lives in Liverpool, said: “Aria went through surgery, radiotherapy and chemotherapy to try to keep his tumour at bay.

"Then, in March last year, the tumour came back and he had a second brain surgery. Devastatingly, a second recurrence came four months later, resulting in another brain operation and more cancer treatment.

“He was forging a great career as a doctor in Manchester. He leaves behind his wife, Naomi, and their young son, Eliyas. Aria was best man at my wedding in 2019 - we were really close. Our friendship group has always been tight-knit and we have all been supporting each other through our grief.”

While he was living with the disease, Aria turned to writing. This culminated in him publishing a children’s fiction book to help explain the complex issues surrounding illness and cancer to Eliyas, who was a toddler at the time.

James Royle in a triceratops costume

The story, Eddie and the Magic Healing Stone is available to purchase on Amazon, with proceeds going to Brain Tumour Research, Royal Medical Foundation, Royal Medical Benevolent Fund, and Society for Assistance of Medical Families.

Aria’s second children’s book, which he wrote during the final weeks of his life, is available to buy on Kindle and will soon be published. Eddie and the Last Dodo on Earth tackles the difficult subject of grief while conveying a positive message about the power of family relationships.

To make their epic walk all-the-more challenging, John and his fellow hikers have decided to do it in fancy-dress costumes depicting some of the fictional characters from Aria’s books.

He said: “I will be wearing a green stegosaurus costume, James will be dressed as a triceratops and Simon and Reza are dressing up as lions. The outfits are very warm but not waterproof, so we’re hoping they’ll withstand the weather conditions as we ascend a total of 1,585 metres and walk for up to 12 hours or so.

Aria and his friends on a school trip to Windermere

"We think Aria would’ve found it funny, so that’s why we’re doing it, as well as to help raise awareness of the great work he did while he was bravely battling this awful disease.”

When they were at school, John and Aria took part in the Duke of Edinburgh Award scheme together and so John thought the Three Peaks was a ‘fitting’ challenge to attempt.”

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John Rapinet will dress up as a dinosaur
Reza Ali dressed as a lion
John Rapinet, Aria Nikjooy, Simon Rolley, James Pettinger, Reza Ali and Chris Slack (L-R)
Aria Nikjooy, John Rapinet, Chris Slack, James Rapinet, Reza, Simon Rolley, James Royle.