Graeme Brookes

Current Location:
WORCESTER, Worcestershire

Walsall to Wembley

For Walsall Society for the Blind

Mar 14 2015

Aug 22 2015

Walsall to Wembley photo

On March 22nd 2015 – Walsall Football Club will end their 127 year wait to make the trip to Wembley. They’re facing Bristol City in the final Johnstones Paint Trophy. To celebrate this historic moment, all for the great cause being: ‘Walsall Society for the Blind’ -

I will be walking every step of the way, from Walsall FC to Wembley. The route ground to ground is approximately 138 miles. It will ‘hopefully’ take me 7 and a half days, walking 8 hours per day, just shy of 20 miles per day over and just over 291,000 steps. Why are you doing this? Please let me explain . . .

My grandfather: Ronald ‘Ronaldo‘ Brookes was a life long Walsall FC fan. He watched his first game in 1922. He was present when we beat Arsenal in 1933 in one of the FA Cup’s biggest upsets, equally so he was there when we lost to Slough in 2004! He was there for every relegation to every promotion for 78 years! The thing that made him that extra bit special was . . .

He was deaf and blind. Born deaf and losing his sight as a teenager – he didn’t let it beat him and it certainly didn’t stop him watching Walsall as much as possible, both home and away. He would have the game ‘typed’ on his hand using ‘deaf/blind manual alphabet’ by his son (my Dad) Paul and then as I got older, by myself too. However he could hear just about enough that when there was a loud cheer and he got vigorously shook – we had scored! This also however left the door open for unintentional comedy, for example: When the referee would make a mistake and me, my brothers or my Dad would ‘politely’ berate him, we would then explain the incident to Ronaldo, leading to him becoming as frustrated as we were and shouting out “Bloody Hell referee, bloody rubbish” about a minute after the actual incident to the amusement of many.

Ronaldo was present when Walsall beat Reading in 2001 at the League One play-off final in Cardiff Millennium Stadium and as happy as we all were, it would’ve made it complete if the game was at Wembley but it was closed for refurbishment and sadly, he never had that chance. Ronaldo spoke to me a number of times how he wished he could watch Walsall play at Wembley and sadly he passed away in late ’05 (and was sadly hospitalised a few days prior to being honoured by the club on Boxing Day 2005).

After finally getting to Wembley after 127 years, I felt it only appropriate to do something to represent Ronaldo and make his presence known on Walsall FC’s day of days. This is why my rather rotund self is walking 20 miles a day for around 7 and a half consecutive days until I walk down Wembley Way on Sunday March 22nd to watch the Super Saddlers.

Due to Ronaldo’s condition, he did need help and support throughout his life – particularly in his formative years and being a Walsall man his entire life, he received this from a local Walsall based charity: Walsall Society for the Blind.

They are a local independent charity established in 1885 based at 11 Hatherton Road, Walsall. They support the blind (as well as the deaf) community by holding numerous social events (days outs, quizzes, craft amongst, bingo and much more) as well as a community liaison team who assist with a wide range of issues from: supporting those suffering with sight loss to supporting family members, assisting with benefits, housing and appropriate equipment. They rely heavily on the superb work of volunteers as well as on donations and fundraising. Ronaldo regularly visited the centre for a number of years and the WSB was the fact the place, he and my Nan held their 60th Wedding Anniversary.

Therefore to honour my grandfather and his love for Walsall FC and combine it to help raise as much money as possible for a charity that meant a lot to him (and my Nan, who was also profoundly deaf). I know he would be proud that they’re being supported and assisted in continuing their superb work supporting the local community and helping them thrive and to keep doing the amazing work they’re doing!

My grandfather was an amazing man. Humble, generous, kind, giving and a real role model. He helped shape all those he had contact with and left a hole in lives that has never been filled but we still follow the example he set in life and I personally know if I follow that route, I think we will all do pretty well for ourselves and those around us. I hope by doing this, I can honour his legacy by supporting a charity to help people in a position he was once in – and it can be done by supporting the football club he loved the most!

So . . . . PLEASE, PLEASE, PLEASE DONATE!

This whole process and story is being made into a documentary by award winning production team 'Indictus Films'. Please follow my blog about the trials and tribulations of preparing for the walk, to the meetings, potential publicity, to the stories, to the actual walk itself. You can follow that at:

www.walsalltowembley.com or follow us on twitter @walsalltowembley

Thank you so much.

UP THE SADDLERS!

Event Location: Non-Geographical

Event Category: Active & Health > Walking

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