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one step at a time: bereaved dad set to conquer great wall

A bereaved father is taking on one of the Seven Wonders of the World in memory of his baby girl.

Gary Footman, 40, from Swansea, will walk the Great Wall of China next spring in support of Tŷ Hafan, the hospice where his daughter Evie received end of life care aged just four months.

Gary Footman

The five-day hike over watchtowers and mountains and through historic battlement stations, will see Gary and his fellow trekkers conquer the legendary 1,000 steps up to the Wall at Mutianyu.

As part of the charity’s Great Wall Trek challenge in April 2017, there will also be a chance to lend a hand repairing a section of the Wall currently under reconstruction, securing the trekkers’ own place in the Great Wall of China history.

Gary said: “The main inspiration was to honour my daughter Evie. Also, I like a challenge and I have no doubt that this is going to be one. The response from my friends and family when I said I was doing the challenge has been a mixture of support and laughter!”

Gary and his partner Sian were devastated when their daughter Evie was diagnosed with a life-limiting condition and passed away in January 2013. But the couple remain committed to supporting the charity that helped them in their darkest moments.

“My daughter Evie went to Tŷ Hafan for end of life care. This meant that we could spend all the time we had left with her without having to worry about all the other things in life, like cooking and cleaning,” he said.

“Also, it is a beautiful place to stay and there is so much to do and so many ways to make memories that would not have been possible if we had stayed in hospital.”


“It gives you the one thing that you want most at a time like that, time to be with that person, and that is something you cannot put a price on. This is why I am supporting Tŷ Hafan, so other families in our position have the same opportunity that we had.”

With Christmas festivities looming, getting his fitness up to scratch is going to be Gary’s first challenge – and his New Year Resolution for 2017.

“My general level of fitness is not where it is going to need to be for this challenge. I have started back in the gym recently, but for this type of challenge I am going to need to get up to Brecon and get the mountains in my legs so to speak. A bit more care over Christmas is definitely going to be needed!

“I’ll be doing a lot of hiking and will also be doing gym work. But nothing prepares you better than just getting out there and walking. The beer will need to be cut back and I will be looking at eating small meals frequently rather than a few large meals a day.”

But he added all the hard work will be worth it when he completes the challenge.

“I’m looking forward to meeting new people but also the scenery and the chance to visit one of the truly remarkable sites in the world.

“I am also looking forward to the 1,000 steps temple – though not walking the 1,000 steps!”

To join Gary and raise vital funds for Tŷ Hafan, register your interest here: https://www.tyhafan.org/china/