I have previously mentioned that I am a founding member of an online Stockport County fans’ forum called ‘County Heaven’, and it was there that I first received (well, chose) the nickname ‘Sandbach Hatter’ (County being known as ‘The Hatters’ for those not particularly au fait with their football club nicknames).
A few years ago, a new member called ‘Kidscan’ joined our forum, and it quickly became apparent that they were not even a real person, let alone a County fan, but rather a charity based in Salford that funds research into new and improved treatments for children with cancer.
Not that any of our admin team are/were heartless bastards (I should know, I’m one of them and I’m lovely), but at the time we had been bombarded with new ‘members’, who were in fact companies trying to saturate our happy little online community with advertisements for their various products, and our patience was wearing thin.
But Kidscan were different. They never once pestered us for donations, nor filled the pages with sob stories in order to guilt members into contributing. In short, they just wanted to let us know of their existence – being a small independent charity – and welcome any of our members who might like to participate in some of the fundraising activities they were running that year.
Their timing was somewhat fortuitous as, not only had I been planning to organise a sponsored walk for charity anyway, but my wife’s cousin had recently had a little boy who, before his first birthday, had been diagnosed with cancer (thankfully he is now fully recovered). It had hit my wife’s family, and in turn me, pretty hard, and so I took some time to look at Kidscan’s website. I, along with a good friend of mine, had previously organised some sponsored events in aid of cancer charities, including watching all the James Bond films at the time – up to and including The World Is Not Enough – back to back (which took us 43 hours) and abseiling down The Europa Hotel in Belfast, but there is something about seeing children who are suffering with cancer that is especially distressing.
I decided to get my arse in gear and organise the walk that I’d been considering for a few months. The idea had been to gather a group of County fans together to walk to an away game, and being in the league we were in at the time, the only feasible distance was to walk to Macclesfield (13 miles). As the away fixture at Moss Rose fell quite nicely at the end of March 2013 (no one wants to a sponsored walk on a freezing Tuesday night in January), the plan was put in place.
In total, eighteen walkers and our beloved dog Bexley took part (although Bexley was collected half way – in Poynton – as he wouldn’t be allowed into the ground and, in truth, he was struggling after about 6 miles anyway), and we all arrived just in time to see the game kick off.
Even better, I had set a speculative target of raising £1,000 for Kidscan when I announced the walk, and whilst it looked as though we would fall just short of that amount with a week to go, not only did we reach the total shortly before we set off, but due to contributions on the day, both online and in our collecting tins, the final total was a staggering £1,836.25. This was something we were all delighted with and immensely proud of, and certainly Kidscan were very grateful for our efforts.
Apart from one demented driving instructor, who mid-lesson decided to unleash a tirade of abuse at us, for no apparent reason other than the fact Bexley had briefly stepped out into the road when his learner student was a good half a mile away, we were all very well received and supported.
So enjoyable and successful was the walk, that I always planned to repeat it the following year, but sadly County got relegated (making a walk to Macclesfield a tad pointless), and I became busy with other projects, so it never happened last season.
I was therefore determined to organise another walk this season, and whilst awaiting the fixtures last July, I realised that the only two realistic fixtures would be Stalybridge and Hyde. As it transpired, not only was the game at Stalybridge at the very start of the season, affording little or no time to organise the walk, but Hyde away fell on exactly the same weekend, two years on from the Macclesfield walk.
So, earlier this season, ‘Hatters Hike (To Hyde) 2015’ was born, and it takes place this coming Saturday – 28th March 2015. The distance to Hyde is significantly shorter than it is to Macclesfield, being around 6 miles from Edgeley Park, so we’re walking there and back this time. It will still be less distance in total than two years ago, but now we’ll have the added complication/nuisance of having stood around for ninety minutes in the cold, undoubtedly watching County get beaten by the team currently sitting bottom of the table, so mustering enough energy for the walk back to Stockport afterwards could be enough of a challenge in itself.
We are again raising funds for Kidscan, and by all means contribute, should you wish to, by visiting www.justgiving.com/HattersHike2015. As things stand, we look likely to meet our target, which is again to raise at least £1,000, but any contribution will be greatly received and, should we ever meet (or, if we already know each other, the next time we do), there’s an uncomfortably long hug in it for you (optional).
Thanks for reading. ‘Normal’ blogging service will be resumed again shortly.