Baggies-mad superfan Heidi Barker is talk of the East Stand and fundraising world as she tackles her latest adventure.
Eight-year-old Heidi is cycling 214 miles, the distance as the crow flies between the French and English capitals, to raise funds for Alzheimer’s Research UK and Macmillan Cancer.
She has already raised £3,400 in this challenge alone, a year after the astonishing total of £16,500 to help Alzheimer’s research in a 603-mile walk across 15 months, the equivalent of Land’s End to John O’Groats.
Heidi and dad David, a lifelong Baggies fan, are now Hawthorns regulars together. They have season tickets in the East Stand, where the primary school pupil has drawn plenty of smiles with vocal and passionate support of her beloved Baggies.
A series of online videos, radio and television appearances have helped support Heidi’s journey and raised funds in the thousands, including messages of support from former players Ben Foster and Daryl Burgess, as well as a signed shirt from current first team regular Dara O’Shea.
Her dad, 47, has promised that for every message from a current or former Albion player he will make another donation. Cheshire-based David, who was born in Kidderminster and grew up in Bewdley, said: “I don’t think I could be any more proud of her, not just for the fundraising, but also her thoughtfulness and kindness. She is just a lovely little girl, no-one meets her and doesn’t fall in love.
“Having a shirt from Dara helped her get the bug for it, Heidi’s barely taken her Albion anorak off for about a week, she talks about the football weeks after a game.
“She absolutely loves (Brandon) Thomas-Asante. She loves how he uses his backside as like a second player to shove people out the way, he and O’Shea are her two favourites.”
Heidi became close friends with a senior Hawthorns steward named Kerry, who told O’Shea’s partner Louise the youngster had won the defender’s shirt. Louise and O’Shea recognised Heidi from her charity exploits online.
Her first game was the 7-1 win over QPR in August 2018 and it was midway through this season she began as a regular with her dad. Heidi regularly amuses fellow fans with screams of “why don’t you try running!?” and “get up, there’s nothing wrong with you!”
Heidi has completed most of her miles around her home in Ellesmere Port, including in the popular stretch at New Brighton. For particular milestones in last year’s walk, for example Bewdley or Blackpool, the family would take a day trip.
She is 61 miles into the ride from Paris, at the town of Albert, on her route to Calais. The family expect to finish the journey in the summer.
Heidi decided to support Alzheimer’s UK as her great-uncle had the illness before the Baggies fan was moved by a TV advert for Macmillan Cancer, and proceeds from this adventure will be split between both charities.
Last year’s efforts were assisted by viral videos of Liverpool legends John Barnes and Robbie Fowler letting Heidi crack an egg over their heads.
You can support Heidi at www.justgiving.com/team/Heidi-ParisLondon.
Her progress can be tracked at @fundraiserheidi on Twitter or by searching 'Heidi’s Paris to London charity challenge!' on Facebook.