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Matchroom Foundation Donates £25,000 To Jessie May

The Matchroom Sport Charitable Foundation has donated a massive £25,000 to Jessie May Children’s Hospital at Home following Rob Walker’s Absent Friends Tour in which he ran and cycled over 1,000 miles from John O’Groats to Land’s End.

This fantastic donation takes the total raised for Jessie May and the Brain Tumour Charity to an incredible £59,000.

CLICK HERE for Rob’s Just Giving page where you can still donate

Jessie May Nurses provide vital respite and palliative care for terminally ill children, and their families across the South West

On behalf of the Matchroom Sport Charitable Foundation, Jason Ferguson said: “We are delighted to make this very significant donation to Jessie May Children’s Hospice at Home. As the World Snooker Tour’s official charity partner since 2016, we have very strong connections to Jessie May so we are very aware of the incredible work they do for children and their families.

“The Matchroom Sport Charitable Foundation is very proud to support Jessie May and their amazing nurses. We would like to congratulate Rob Walker and the team around him on his fantastic achievement in making it from John O’Groats to Land’s End and it was tremendous to see the whole snooker community getting behind Rob and raising a huge amount of money for two great charities. Thank you to everyone who donated and got involved.”

Reflecting on the challenge, which he completed in 19 days, our Master of Ceremonies Rob said: “What a trip, what a month, what a privilege.

“From the moment I came up with the idea of running and cycling John O Groats to Lands End in memory of my three mates 12 months ago, the task and the admin around it has been in the back of my mind. And certainly since the start of this year – especially after my son’s nine-year-old friend George died in December 2022 –  it has dominated every spare hour of energy I had.

“So it was with a mixture of relief, elation and humility that I finally touched that white post at Land’s End on June 23rd. Mission complete. Amazingly, from start to finish it went like clockwork. Considering how much could have gone wrong, that was a minor miracle. And in no small part that was down to the brilliant team of people I had with me throughout.

“It will always remain one of the best things I’ve ever done – either personally or professionally – but my advice to anyone who fancies having a go (or doing something similar) is to make sure you have great people around you.

“Having the loan of a great mate’s six-berth campervan was a game changer – as were the people driving it. My dad and I are very close and he is one of the proudest Scots I have ever met, so it was appropriate that he was the van driver as we traversed his home country. One of my oldest mates Tim and his girlfriend Karen took over just south of Glasgow and got us to Gloucester, where they handed over to another great friend Vix and her boyfriend Billy who drove the final leg down to Land’s End.

“Modern technology can be the bane of our lives, however on a trip like this it was a huge help. Every day I would share my location with those in the van and they could also follow live track on the Garmin as well. This meant that when we agreed our meeting points (usually every 25-30 miles) they would be able to see when I was close by. So by the time I stopped, a mountain of food was pre prepared and the kettle was on, ready for me to refuel. There was no finding a cafe and queuing up for food. I simply handed the bike to someone, sat down in the van and inhaled calories. It was fantastic.

“As a result of doing it independently, it felt a more intimate experience and bearing in mind the whole thing was about mates, having time with dad, Tim, Karen, Vix and Billy was also great. It was a hell of a lot of fun.

“At times they were all tearing their hair out at me, because I’m more of an instinctive type of person where they are all brilliant organisers and planners. Almost every day there was a phone interview to do and that inevitably delayed things slightly, but with no agent it was down to me and my contacts to drum up publicity and keep the fundraising going.

“There was also the added logistical scenario of fitting in snooker interviews on the way down. Meeting up with Alan McManus, Anthony McGill, John Higgins, Liam Highfield, Dave Hendon, Jill Douglas, Jamie Jones and Radzi Chinyanganya was fantastic but took some planning. World Snooker Tour had lent me Sam Fletcher who agreed to film the whole thing for social media on the way down and in return I said I would try and pick up some in depth interviews along the way as he was not available for normal duties for almost three weeks.

“Sam’s candid behind the scenes coverage on Twitter and Instagram was a huge factor in us hitting and exceeding the fundraising targets and I’ll always be grateful to him for that.

“The tightest turn around for a snooker rendezvous was meeting Alan and Anthony. After a huge day in the saddle, I got a lift into the centre of Glasgow still in my lycra. I had a back pack with jeans and a shirt and got changed in a shopping precinct toilet, sprayed some deodorant on and got to the pub five minutes before they arrived. But seeing all of them was brilliant – a real boost to morale and publicity.

“I should also give specific mention to John Higgins who got up very early to make it to the campsite in Biggar on the second Monday of the trip. ITV’s Good Morning Britain had agreed to come and do a live hit from the campsite if he was part of the broadcast. It turned out to be a big moment of publicity and fundraising. They gave us five minutes live coverage in the end (which is a huge amount of airtime on network) and there was a flurry of about 50 donations within half a hour of us being on. But it wouldn’t have happened without John so huge credit and thanks to him for that.

“The whole snooker community were brilliant throughout. There were messages of support from so many players past and present both before the trip and during it as well and that was truly humbling. In fact it was Shaun Murphy’s donation of £2,200 which helped us hit the fundraising target of £25,000 on the nose with a week to go.

“And thanks to the work of WPBSA Chairman Jason Ferguson and the generosity of the Matchroom Sport Charitable Foundation, the final figure raised for the Brain Tumour Charity and Jessie May jumped from £32,000 to £57,000 at the end of last week as they decided to add £25,000 to the kitty. I was blown away.

“I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again. There is a sense of pride in being who we are and at times it feels like we are part of an extended family. That was tangible for me throughout the trip. Balancing enjoying it and remaining focused on the end goal was tricky. My dad kept saying to me remember to enjoy it, this is fantastic for all of us. And it was!

“But as I kept reminding him, people didn’t sponsor me to get halfway down and stop or retire, I was there to finish it and there was a massive amount of mileage to cover. As a result there were a number of times I had to contain my excitement and remember to focus on the day ahead. Compartmentalising was very important.

“There was one very funny moment early on as I cycled down a big hill into a town called Dingwall just north of Inverness. Quite often at home in the morning, I’ll walk into the kitchen and shout out in a cheesy game-show host type voice “Congratulations you’re live with Rob Walker!” to make my son laugh. I know, I know – just complete nonsense to raise a smile. Anyway, I was going round this corner on day three in glorious sunshine and felt a rush of adrenaline so I thought I would give it the big shout for Arthur even though no-one could hear me. Or so I thought.

“As I went round the corner booming the ridiculous phrase out loud I suddenly went past a building, startling two women having a break. I was mightily embarrassed and they laughed. I’m sure they must have been thinking ‘who the hell is that loser?’ for the rest of the day. There were so many little moments like that and they all contributed to an incredible experience.

“Giving out the prosecco every day was a lot of fun and led to some brilliant conversations. So many people I spoke to had experienced grief of their own and while giving them a bottle of bubbly wasn’t going to change that, some were deeply moved by the gesture. One campsite owner had been helpful on the phone when we were booking and as luck would have it, he was the one on the gate to let us in one evening. I jumped out of the van and gave him a bottle and he then started crying. I felt guilty until he clarified that he had just buried his mum the previous day and appreciated the gesture. He told me he would drink it that evening in her honour and waived all our charges for the night. And that generosity of spirit will remain my abiding memory of the whole trip.

“For 19 days I saw nothing but the best of British. We are an understated, self deprecating nation but what I saw on that Absent Friends tour is that Great Britain is underpinned by great people of all backgrounds, interests and walks of life.

“It was my honour to be greeted by so many of them on a 1,000 mile journey which Robin, Martyn, Stephen and George would have absolutely loved.”