Blind Dave celebrates team effort after Great Wall of China triumph
"It was an adventure, an experience of a lifetime and an ordeal but there were laughs and a lot of fun along the way."
Charity champion Blind Dave Heeley has scaled the heights of one of the seven ‘new’ wonders of the world in a charity trek.
Dave was joined by his wife Debbie and three daughters – Grace, Georgie and Danni – for the trek along the Great Wall of China which finished at the weekend.
The family followed in the footsteps of Dave’s beloved Albion, led by Ron Atkinson, who went on a famous tour of China in 1978 – including a visit to the landmark.
Cash raised from the challenge will be donated to Dave’s long-term supporters and West Brom’s charitable cause, The Albion Foundation.
Dave, who was back at home in West Bromwich with his feet up today, said: "Aye the knees are aching a bit. We were travelling for about 24 hours to get back to the UK.
"We've just got up and just started reminiscing about it now."
To prepare for the trek, the Heeley family pounded the steps of the stands of The Hawthorns – the highest ground above sea-level in the football league.
The family were part of a 22-strong group flying out to complete the 60-mile walk.
It included trustee for the foundation and West Brom legend, Brendon Batson, and Michelle and Julia Regis – with half of their funds going to the foundation and the Cyrille Regis Legacy Trust.
Soon the group were stepping onto the Great Wall itself with its crumbling pathway leading to tricky conditions under foot.
Dave said: "It was so strange too with the steps. Nothing was uniform, big and small so it was not easy.
"You can climb up for about 1,000 steps. The wall follows the land so it undulates up and down."
Temperatures could also vary from -1C at night to 27C in the daytime with walks taking up to seven hours to complete daily.
But sharing the experience with his family helped ease the pain.
"It was lovely. It was the first [challenge] as a family and hopefully not the last. The girls kept everyone laughing. Debbie was brilliant too helping me."
Once the group had completed the trip they enjoyed a day having a tour of Beijing - which also including a departure for their diet.
"We had had Chinese food everyday obviously so we found a Pizza Hut and had pizza. It was great," he said.
And despite the gruelling trek, Dave still plans to head out on a run later this week.
On completing the challenge, Michelle Regis said: “Walking the Great Wall of China has been an amazing and emotional experience.”
West Bromwich legend Brendon Batson added: “The work the foundation does is fantastic. They’re recognised as one of the best foundations in the game at the moment. It’s a pleasure to try and support them.”
Donations are still open. To donate, visit www.justgiving.com/fundraising/teamblinddave2018 or www.justgiving.com/fundraising/jonathan-ward-china
Cyrille Regis had planned to tackle the Great Wall alongside Brendon before his passing in January.