Buxton dad conquers another six peaks in aid of Christie cancer charity

A Buxton dad leading a major fundraising effort for the cancer hospital which helped him through the disease is feeling on top of the world again after conquering a six-peak walking challenge in a weekend – while back home his daughter was collecting an award for her own contribution to the cause.
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Kitchen designer Matt Heywood, 39, led a team of walkers up and down the three highest peaks in both Wales and Yorkshire, back to back, in 32 sleepless hours over the weekend of August 12.

The route was around 42 miles altogether, or 120,000 steps, and though only a few of the team went the full distance – as was always the plan – it took a giant effort from everyone involved.

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Matt said: “It’s the hardest thing I’ve ever done and I didn’t realise how difficult it would be until we were up there. We wanted to push ourselves though. There were lots of emotional, painful tears and everyone’s bodies hurt but the last four of us who completed the whole thing never stopped. We kept going and going.

Matt Heywood, in the red hat, with his teammates on the first leg of the challenge in Wales.Matt Heywood, in the red hat, with his teammates on the first leg of the challenge in Wales.
Matt Heywood, in the red hat, with his teammates on the first leg of the challenge in Wales.

“It was a real struggle at times but we kept on grinding. It took a lot of resilience. I’m really, really proud of everyone who pushed themselves to their personal best.”

Whereas Matt’s 2022 fundraising trek up the highest peaks of England, Wales and Scotland was a gruelling ordeal in scorching summer heat, this year’s presented a different kind of challenge.

He said: “Last year was difficult for me personally because I was still in the middle of treatment and recovery. I only just managed it, so I knew my fitness had to be better.

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“The hardest part was just the longevity. To do the three Welsh peaks in 24 hours is difficult to achieve. To do that, then get in the car to go and hike another 25 miles in Yorkshire really takes it’s toll.”

The hardy few who made it to the sixth and final summit n Yorkshire.The hardy few who made it to the sixth and final summit n Yorkshire.
The hardy few who made it to the sixth and final summit n Yorkshire.
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He added: “The weather conditions were the worst we’ve ever had. After every mountain we were sodden through to our socks, wet to the core, and had to do a full change of clothes. Everyone’s feet were shredded due to the moisture.

“After a quick pitstop and a bit of food, somehow we actually felt quite fresh going into the Yorkshire leg but as soon as we’d done peak number four the tiredness really kicked in again.

“There was no room for me to fail though. I’d spent nine months preparing for it and so many people had helped with donations. Come hell or high water, I was going to complete it.”

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The weekend was the centrepiece in a second year of fundraising missions Matt is undertaking, this time for the charity linked to Manchester’s Christie NHS Trust.

Lily Heywood, right, collecting her award with sister Maya and Billerette Bill Weston at the Buxton Emergency Services Day.Lily Heywood, right, collecting her award with sister Maya and Billerette Bill Weston at the Buxton Emergency Services Day.
Lily Heywood, right, collecting her award with sister Maya and Billerette Bill Weston at the Buxton Emergency Services Day.

In 2022, he netted more than £12,000 for Melanoma Focus, which works to support patients with the same type of skin cancer Matt faced between 2021 and the all-clear earlier this year.

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With just one more task left to go in September – another trek up the three highest peaks in Spain, all over 3,000 metres, with a team organised by the Christie – this year’s total has already passed £5,000.

Matt’s eldest daughter, ten-year-old Lily, has made a significant contribution to that with her own series of challenges, which she is well on the way to completing in the next few weeks before a final 5K run in Manchester in late September.

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In recognition of those efforts, Lily was presented with a Mini Hero award at the Emergency Services Day in Buxton, held the same weekend Matt was slogging it out on the hills.

Lily is on course to complete her own set of running, hiking, cycling and swimming challenges in aid of the Christie.Lily is on course to complete her own set of running, hiking, cycling and swimming challenges in aid of the Christie.
Lily is on course to complete her own set of running, hiking, cycling and swimming challenges in aid of the Christie.

He said: “I got a local police officer had read about Lily in the paper and nominated her for the award. She was absolutely over the moon to get that acknowledgement.

“The first I knew was an email that came through about the nomination, I was standing in a queue somewhere, reading it off my phone, and just burst into tears. My fiancée, Nikki, had to finish reading it for me. It was a real proud dad moment.”

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He added: “It’s been demanding for her. Some days she’s needed encouragement but every donation we’ve received has given her the incentive to keep going. She’s spurred on by the difference she’s making.

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“I’ve signed up to take part in clinical trials which could help with early detection of melanoma through blood tests, and that new research and development wing at the Christie has been built by people like us, and everyone who’s ever pulled on the fundraising t-shirt.”

Beyond Matt’s trip to Spain, thoughts are now turning to 2024 and how the team can top what they’ve already accomplished.

Matt said: We were going to have a year but the buzz around what we’ve achieved means people want to keep going. I’m hoping to run the Manchester marathon adn then maybe we’ll build up to the Welsh 3000s – 15 peaks in 24 hours. It’s one of the hardest challenges of that kind in the country.”

Matt and his teammates have raised thousands of pounds which in support of cancer patients across the region.Matt and his teammates have raised thousands of pounds which in support of cancer patients across the region.
Matt and his teammates have raised thousands of pounds which in support of cancer patients across the region.

He added: “Before that I’m going to spend some quality time with the family. I have to say a big thank you to Nikki, Lily and her sister Maya, my mum and dad, family and friends. They know how much commitment this takes.

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“To my team, David Birtles, Reb Corbett, Emma Lynch, Dion Doyle, Rachel Gould, Laura Rowland, Ollie Baines, Dom Caley and Tobias Webb – thank you all for your commitment to what was a successful weekend. We did it.

“And another thank you to all our supporters, everyone who donated, all that share and liked our content to help network the campaign, my personal trainer Liam Taylor at Peak Resilience, Kev O’Neill from Breatheolution and Nic and Phil from Chasing Summits.”

To add to Matt’s fundraising total, go to https://tinyurl.com/47cuhxen.