Thursday, 12 September 2013

Steve Harper Charity Testimonial Match

It was a real honour and privilege to be invited to attend Steve Harper's charity testimonial match with The Sir Bobby Robson Foundation last night at St James Park. I was thrilled to be in the company of Lady Elsie Robson, her family and the NHS administrators that the charity uses.

I really enjoyed watching the players in black and white that I once watched week in week. The attendance of over 50,000 for a Newcastle legends team against an AC Milan Glorie side was testament to Steven Harper, how well he is thought of by the supporters and the loyalty that he gave Newcastle in a career spanning 20 years. Moreover, I'm sure that the match will have raised a huge sum of money for 3 good causes in the region; The Newcastle United Foundation, The Great North Children's Hospital and The Sir Bobby Robson Foundation.

After the match, I spoke at length to Sir Bobby's son, Mark, about the up and coming Benfield Australia Run and how the planning and preparation had been going. I was also lucky enough to learn more about the Foundation's future plans. Not that I needed it, but it was a reminder as to why I made the carefully considered decision to switch my fundraising efforts from St Benedict's Hospice to The Sir Bobby Robson Foundation in 2012. 

I was also lucky enough to meet an inspirational family who have directly benefitted from a trial undertaken at the Sir Bobby Robson Cancer Trials Centre. Coincidentally, it was the person undergoing the trial's birthday. His wife commented that "This time last year we didn't know if he would get to this birthday. But the work of the Sir Bobby Robson Foundation made it happen". Hearing that statement following the earlier discussion I had with Mark Robson underlined the importance of the work that the Sir Bobby Robson Foundation does. The following statement that I made on this blog last year sprang to mind: "For me, this is now about helping to raise funds to allow the experts to find a cure for this terrible disease. A cure that may, indeed, have saved my parents lives had it been found. It may take many generations to beat the disease. The generation that currently exists right here and right now can really play their part in the fight against cancer. The Sir Bobby Robson Foundation is one of many such charities that are fighting the disease through trial and research in our world. It has a huge part to play in this ongoing battle.".

Lady Elsie's parting words to me were "If I don't see you, good luck in Australia!". Brilliant! I loved that. I've met Sir Bobby Robson's family on a few occasions and it always strikes me how very down to earth and, quite frankly, how very lovely they are. Speaking of being "down to earth", I managed to talk to Steve Harper (pictured with me below) and congratulate him on putting together such a great event. He was a very friendly person indeed. 

I was totally gobsmacked that he knew about my running exploits and he had a lot of very kind things to say. He wished me luck for the Australia run and it rounded off a quite incredible evening for me personally.

Well done to Steve Harper, the rest of the players and the 50,793 supporters whose support is going to benefit 3 brilliant North East charities.