After losing his leg to cancer aged just nine, Newcastle United supporter Chris could no longer play football like he used to.
“I had always been passionate about football since before my treatment began,” Chris said. “I was always massive on football and once I was made aware of the Foundation programme, I had to take a leap of faith and attend. The Foundation hasn’t been able to get rid of me since!”
“The session not only helped me go on to an amputee set up, but also allowed me to work with the Foundation in order to establish the Newcastle United Foundation Amputee team.”
Now in his early twenties, Chris continues to attend weekly training with the Foundation through free Amputee Football sessions led by specialist coaching staff who he credits with creating positive change in his life.
Chris said: “The Foundation coaches I’ve worked with have all had an impact on me, not only as a person, but on my footballing ability, which is huge for me. The support offered from the coaches is amazing – it makes it feel like a community.
“The Foundation has done a lot for me, so I thought it was about time I did something to pay the Foundation back and that’s why I’m running the Great North Run.
“The Foundation has pushed me every step of the way and it has always been something I’d thought about doing – I’m just glad I can do something that will hopefully help the Foundation grow in any means possible.”
Chris is one of dozens of determined runners taking on the Great North Run this weekend fundraising for Newcastle United Foundation, each following a legendary 13.1-mile route starting in Newcastle before crossing the Tyne Bridge and passing through Gateshead and South Tyneside before reaching the finish line at South Shields.
And while most runners will find the event tough, Chris knows his journey to the finish line will be that bit harder this Sunday.
“The Great North Run is a huge challenge for anyone taking part, never mind on crutches,” Chris said.
“It’ll be a huge challenge, but a challenge I am looking forward to, nonetheless.
“To train I’ve been aiming to go out each night, even if this is just walking, in order to build up the strength. I’ve ramped it up in the past weeks, going from 5k to 10k, looking to become fitter and ready for the Run.
“I have also had to do a lot of shoulder exercises as it is not only going to be a very demanding run cardio-wise, but also for my upper body – so I’ve been making sure to work on that too.
“I hope to inspire others and ultimately grow the Foundation as much as possible. The Foundation has given me so much. I’m hoping anyone out there with a disability who has been sitting on the fence debating coming to one of the sessions, whether they’re an amputee or have any other disability – I hope it motivates them to just come and give it a try.”
Newcastle United Foundation’s team of runners this year include charity participants, supporters and partners, as well as staff from both the Foundation and Newcastle United Football Club.
Dan Hodges, Head of Performance at Newcastle United, is also taking on this year’s Run in support of the Foundation, with Head Coach Eddie Howe the official race starter for 2023.
Chris added: “As a Newcastle supporter, to be able to pull on the famous black and white and represent the Club in any means brings great pride.
“The Amputee team recently came close to winning the Championship, but this was unfortunately cut short by covid. That hasn’t stopped us though as we are still looking to build and encourage any amputees who have an interest in football to come and try out – we’re very welcoming and it can help you more than you would think.
“I understand some people may be anxious about getting back out there, but it is so worth it for the sense of community. And if you’re debating fundraising for the Foundation, please look into it as it’s such a great cause and a lot deeper than just a game of football.”
Donations to Newcastle United Foundation can be made online by visiting nufoundation.org.uk.