Thursday, 18 October 2018 19:51

A VERY special (and tiring) 7 days in the north of England! (blog #35)

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Hi all

This will be the final note of my current year of events which runs to 5th November and I certainly have ended it on a high.
So what did I do this year? As you would expect, 1,000s of miles racing and charity treks in The Arctic, Sahara, Spain, Albania and UK.
I have met so many inspiring people and maybe inspired a few along the way too. I have presented to 1,000s of people through the year, been on National TV, local and National radio, had a column in the Sunday Mirror every week, been the subject of magazine articles, been a mentor for others with challenges, been presented and nominated for awards for achievement and most importantly raised much awareness and funds for Prostate Cancer UK.

Looking back it's been another incredible 12 months....

With the help of so many of you reading this I have personally raised around £30,000 but so many of you have also taken on challenges inspired by me for Prostate Cancer UK and raised well over another £100,000 this year. There are so many of you who have done things that to single out any one would be disingenuous to those I didn't mention but I promise you I am eternally grateful for anything and everything anyone has done that have helped be it financially or morally.

Thank you for everyone who voted for me in the Just Giving Awards, the voting has closed, I have no idea how I have done but the winner is announced on the 20th November, fingers crossed!

On the health front, there have been some challenges but the drugs somehow are working longer than expected although the mental side of things does become more of a battle as time goes on, that said, I feel lucky to be alive and able to do most things still, more about that later!

How did I round off my year? Well, I wanted to do something to thank the Vanarama National League for supporting Prostate Cancer UK so decided to undertake a solo walk that ended up being 196 miles (after getting lost!) visiting 10 football grounds in the North of England and I will share a bit about how this has inspired me further to keep going.

I started at Blyth Spartans on a wet Sunday a week ago. I was a bit nervous about what kind of reception I would get as just because an unknown bloke with a charity cause decides to undertake a challenge does not mean that they should do anything but I was so inspired by each club and how I in some way made a difference to so many.

I was joined by a few supporters in Blyth who walked me to the edge of town (perhaps they wanted to make sure I didn't come back!) and onto Gateshead where I was again met by fans, one , a young lad called Josh stood out as he had got his dad to drive him to the ground as he had read about what I was doing and wanted to show his support. Hartlepool was next after a 32 mile cliff edge walk, met by the senior staff and team captain. I even had a wacky new physio treatment on my legs, it certainly made a difference. Spennymoor came next where I was again met by officials and the club captain plus the Mayor and an inspirational man, Mark Solan. Mark walked a few miles with me and explained that he has lost most of his family to different cancers and decided to set up a charity of his own to help families who are financially struggling when cancer hits. He told me so many tear jerking stories of what they had achieved from fixing boilers to helping with money management, wigs and sadly paying for over 100 burials for those who had no money. At Darlington I joined the team for a training session and had a chat with some of the staff . Along the way I was sleeping in a motorhome in football club car parks that Richard, an independent film maker was using to follow the story. Richard has been with me now for a year and has produced some epic footage. It did mean though that we were both shattered each night as the attrition of 14+ hours a day on my feet gradually took its toll.

The 51 mile slog to York was a killer, the A roads have few pavements and dicing with lorries and cars kept me on my toes the whole time however at York I had another fantastic reception and was live on the BBC radio four times throughout the day.

In Harrogate I witnessed probably the best example of a community football club with so many facets of local people involved that night from the kids teams, walking football , the main team and so many locals who just wanted to be part of the club. I was asked to delay the next days start as they wanted me to present to the first team which I did. Later I had a message from one of the players whose mum has terminal cancer and he just wanted to ask some health questions. It was then that it dawned on my that its because of my situation that people feel able to open up and ask me things. There are so many people out there who want to ask something but just don't know how to ask and don't want to be judged. Again , not that I need it, but further inspiration to keep on going and do more. Guiseley was the next stop now joined by 3 mates where yet again I was given full access to the facilities and had a much needed shower!

On the final day there were about 12 of us walking, first to Bradford Park Avenue, another shining example of community involvement where we were yet again well looked after and then to Halifax for the grand finale. The reason why Halifax was the final destination was because the match against Chesterfield was live on BT Sport and they used coverage shot by Richard in the week as part of the show with my arrival on the pitch with the match ball being the culmination of the march.

On the pitch I received on behalf of the charity a big cheque from Vanarama for £150,000 that they had donated to Prostate Cancer UK and I hope that in some way I added to the experience. What struck me most about the Halifax experience were again little things. In the hospitality suite where a few hundred people were, the compare grabbed me up to the front and let me do a bit about prostate cancer and collect a few hundred pounds from the guests, I spent 10 minutes with Martin Allen, the manager of Chesterfield talking about my challenges and how I try to overcome them for now and finally, the most emotional for me, I was approached by a lady who thought I was inspirational. She then told me about her son who in his mid 20s has been severely disabled from birth. She and her husband had brought him up and he came to every Halifax match. After the match I went over to find Adam who is strapped to a wheelchair and gave him a captains armband that was a special edition for that Saturday for non league teams. His eyes lit up and you could tell just how excited and pleased he was. I had to hold back tears as I talked to him. He certainly changed my opinion of what loving care can do for anyone with severe challenges. I felt not worthy to be considered inspiring when that is truly a word that should be used for that family, I am not even close.

The photos are me presenting to Harrogate Town FC, chatting with Martin Allen manager of Chestefield FC and with Adam, one amazing special young man from Halifax.

So that's it, thank you all again for all that you have done, having said I will not single anyone out, I have to thank Nat West, my employer as without their support much of what I do would be near impossible and of course my wife Sarah who I have no idea how she copes with me and all that I sadly bring to her world.
Take care, Kev

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