Buxton schoolgirl, aged 10, follows in dad's footsteps with fundraising challenge for Christie cancer charity

A Buxton schoolgirl has launched her own fundraising campaign for hospital cancer services after being inspired by her dad’s efforts while undergoing treatment.

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Ten-year-old Lily Heywood has embarked on a series of six physical challenges for the Christie Charity – an arm of the Christie NHS Trust, which cares for patients across High Peak and Greater Manchester – to coincide with an ambitious campaign for the same cause led by dad Matt.

Over the next few months, she will be completing 60 miles each of running, hiking and cycling, swimming 60 lengths of her local pool, climbing Mount Snowdon with Matt and finishing off with a five- or ten-kilometre race.

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Lily, a pupil at St Anne’s primary school, said: “I’m helping my dad raise money for the Christie because they help cure thousands of people. It means a lot to me because they helped my dad get better.

Matt and Lily Heywood now share a big passion for fundraising in support of local cancer services.Matt and Lily Heywood now share a big passion for fundraising in support of local cancer services.
Matt and Lily Heywood now share a big passion for fundraising in support of local cancer services.

“I hope my fundraising will help people get their treatment. I want to be a person who makes a difference to other people's lives, I am feeling confident and hopeful that I will make a difference in my life.”

Matt has already completed the first two of his own six challenges this year, conquering the Christie Tower Run up Manchester’s tallest building in March, and then a half-marathon in the city on May 21.

He said: “Lily’s been out walking with me a lot but when she came along to the half-marathon, I think it struck a chord with her – the environment, the support, the importance of the cause. When we got back she asked if there was something she could do to raise money too.”

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The charity has a fundraising initiative aimed at schools and young people, 60 for the Christie, themed around the the average 60-mile distance a patient travels for cancer treatment in the UK, and it did not take long for Lily to come up with some ideas.

Lily says the challenge is giving her new confidence after a difficult few years.Lily says the challenge is giving her new confidence after a difficult few years.
Lily says the challenge is giving her new confidence after a difficult few years.
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Matt said: “She’s developed this all on her own, and I’m massively proud. It was quite overwhelming when she came to me with this. She’s told me that I’ve inspired it, but really she inspires me every day with everything’s she’s taken on.

“Her age group had a really difficult few years with the pandemic, being in and out of school and just old enough to understand what was going on for all the adults around them. Then straight on the back of that I got my diagnosis.

“In the early stages we were very careful what we told Lily and her younger sister, Maya. We didn’t want them to carry the burden, so we skipped around the word cancer until I was recovering from surgery and knew there was a good chance I would be ok. Then one day I took Lily out for a one-to-one walking the dog, and told her everything.”

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Matt was given the all-clear in February after 18 months of treatment for skin cancer which had spread to his lymph nodes, and time out on the hills around town appears to have done the world of good for both father and daughter.

Matt completed the Great Manchester Run last month as part of his year-long fundraising campaign.Matt completed the Great Manchester Run last month as part of his year-long fundraising campaign.
Matt completed the Great Manchester Run last month as part of his year-long fundraising campaign.

Lily said: “I've struggled with anxiety and worries for quite along time, I really wanted it to stop, even though I found it really hard I was determined to beat it, so I followed after my dad, I take deep breaths that relax me. As I started walking and hiking more it helped me.

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“I walk with my dad in the morning it helps me start my day better, sometimes we try and walk in the evening, this helps me be calm and not worry at night. The more I walk the fitter I feel the more I want to push myself.”

Matt added: “I’ve seen her break out of mould of insecurity she had, and now we’re really connecting and spending a lot more productive time together. Sharing this passion for fundraising has brought us even closer together.

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“Giving something back to the Christie is really important to me now, and that must have spilled over to Lily. So long as she’s enjoying it, long may it continue.”

Lily is breaking most of her challenges into bitesize chunks, running around 15 laps of her school playground every day towards the 60-mile target, and already finishing ten-mile hikes over Kinder Scout and Bleaklow.

Matt said: “Those hikes have doubled as training for my challenges. It’s pretty mind-blowing coming down off a hike, completely knackered, and she’s still bouncing along but it’s lovely to see.”

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He will need to summon up some of that energy on Saturday, June 10, when Matt is taking on the Yorkshire Three Peaks alongside a team of fundraisers assembled by the Christie – a test run for the six-peak expedition of family and friends he is leading in August.

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Matt said: “I’m not much of a runner but the week after the Manchester half-marathon, I got roped into the Buxton one which is really gruelling, almost like a fell race. Doing them back-to-back took its toll, but I’m just about match fit again now. This weekend will be a good way to understand the Yorkshire leg of the challenge – the pressures we’ll face and how to navigate the route.

“We’ve set a target of £3,000 for the Christie, and we’re halfway towards it already so I’m confident we’ll get there. We’re not putting any big expectation on fundraising this year. The economy is crushing us all at the moment, but if anyone can spare a couple of quid it doesn’t need to be any more than that.”

Donations to Lily’s fundraising will go into the same pot as Matt’s at https://bit.ly/3J36UQv, and anyone wanting to support her efforts in particular can leave a few words of encouragement on the page.

For more updates from the campaign, follow facebook.com/mjheywood or instagram.com/hikewood_outdoors.

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