WATCH: John steps out on 'global' tour to help disadvantaged children

A determined 92-year-old is clocking up the miles to raise funds for disadvantaged children.

Former athletics coach John Dunne from Ashton is walking a mile a day to help support United Through Sport, a charity dedicated to transforming lives through sport by improving education, raising health awareness and building life skills in young people from disadvantaged communities around the world.

John is helping a Facebook group, called The Close Call, to raise the necessary funds. 

The group was designed to bring sport officials from all backgrounds together - irrespective of whether they are a cricket umpire, football referee or a referee in rugby. 

The group decided to ‘tour’ the different countries of the world represented by their members.

They started last Saturday by covering Rwanda and clocked up an amazing 893km between them. The members are now collectively ‘walking around’ Slovenia.

John, who has been walking to keep fit during lockdown, decided to help out by walking his own mile a day near his home.

He said: “I have always walked to keep fit. I can’t sit in watching TV. You’ve got to get off your backside. I walk near my home when the weather is fine. It’s good exercise.”

John was a sprinter in his younger days and has travelled all over the world competing on the track. 

He also coached athletes with disabilities at East Cheshire Harriers, with some going on to win Paralympic medals at both the Sydney and Beijing Olympic Games. 

The former toolmaker ran with the Olympic torch in 2012 and the Commonwealth baton in 2002. He also played golf at Dukinfield Golf Club.

John has six daughters, 13 grandchildren and nine great grandchildren. He also had a son, who sadly died at the age of 29 in 1985.

John lost his wife Winifred, three years ago - they had been together 64 years. Since then he has been encouraged to keep active by his family.

His daughter Andrea Allison said: “My dad has been walking most days since first lockdown. I came here from Scarborough to move in with him in March to keep us both safe as I am shielding and it meant less people in and out. 

“Dad lives on his own since Mum died and we encouraged him to walk to keep him active. Dad has always loved sport and was an athletics coach at East Cheshire for athletes with a disability for many years. 

“I am a member of The Close Call Facebook group for officials from all sports - my partner was a professional umpire until retirement this year - and they decided to complete a walk around all the countries of the members in the group for United through Sport for disadvantaged children across the world to help them get into sport.

“Dad said he would like to join in and even though it’s a short walk, for a 92-year-old it’s not bad!

“He walks most days, weather permitting. When I am not working we go down to Park Bridge and walk there also. Anywhere that is flat, as he finds hills a struggle. 

“He had a heart valve replacement around four years ago. 

“My mum was a nurse at Tameside for many years and also a practice nurse. She attended the day unit at Willow Wood when she was ill so Dad and the family donate Christmas card money to Willow Wood - this year we sent £230 - we send a lot of cards!

“My dad is an amazing man.”

If you would like to help John raise money for United Through Sport visit https://justgiving.com/fundraising/tourdeclosecall?

Main image: John Dunne and his daughter Andrea on their daily walk.

Watch a video of John and Andrea on their daily walk, in which John talks more about how he got into athletics, at the top of the page. 

Images and video by Nigel Wood

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