A Connor rector and his sons have raised well over £20,000 by walking a marathon in aid of the work of Macmillan Cancer Support.
The Rev Canon Kevin Graham and sons Jamie and Luke had originally planned to take part in Macmillan Cancer Support’s ‘Mighty Hike’ which was due to take place along the north coast last Saturday, June 26, 2021.
But when the event was cancelled due to ongoing Covid-19 restrictions, Kevin, Jamie and Luke secured the charity’s blessing to go ahead with their own fundraising marathon, and walked from St Bartholomew’s, Stranmillis, where Kevin is rector, to St Colman’s, Kilroot, and back – a distance of 26.2 miles.
The change of plan meant the family was able to add something very special to their day, because at the half-way point, Kevin and his wife Cheryl renewed their wedding vows in an intimate family service celebrated by the Bishop of Connor, the Rt Rev George Davison, in St Colman’s, where they had shared their original vows almost 25 years ago.
Kevin was inspired to sign up for the marathon hike after Cheryl received a terminal cancer diagnosis last November, and Jamie and Luke agreed to undertake the challenge with their dad.
Looking back on the day, Kevin said conditions for walking had been perfect at the start, as the sky was overcast and the temperature a pleasant 15 degrees. “It was ideal for walking and we reached Kilroot in less than three and a half hours. We were delighted that the rector, the Rev Nigel Kirkpatrick, and churchwardens were there to open up for us.
“Inside the church, there were just the four of us and Bishop George. Cheryl and I renewed our vows. It was a very emotional service, and Bishop George read some inspiring words from Corinthians 13.”
Kevin said spirits were high as the trio started their half-marathon walk back to Stranmillis. “After a while, the sun burned away the clouds and it was very hot as we walked along Belfast Lough, and we were all a bit quiet. But when we reached Duncrue we knew we were back in Belfast, and livened up again,” he said.
“We were delighted to get back to the rectory, lie down in the back garden and reflect on the money raised. We are delighted too with the support people have given us.”
At time of writing, the Graham Family JustGiving page was standing at a phenomenal £21,238, and with separate donations and gift aid, Kevin is hopeful the final tally for Macmillan Cancer Support will be in the region of £26,000.
The JustGiving page is still open for donations at https://www.justgiving.com/fundraising/grahamfamily2021.
There was further positive news, when a visit to her oncologist revealed that Cheryl’s treatment has reduced the size of the tumour.
Kevin said that the walk with his sons, and the intimate family service at which he and Cheryl renewed their vows, had been very special. “We wanted to create special memories as a family, but other people will benefit too,” he said.