Mark Crossley, who started walking last year to combat mental health issues following his father’s cancer diagnosis and losing his job, became known to more than just sports fans through his ‘walking’s brilliant’ campaign.
That morphed into the Walking and Talking Charity Hikes (WATCH) non-profit organisation featuring several former professional footballers, including ex-Red Jon Parkin, former Sheffield Wednesday players Chris Kirkland and Nigel Jemson and Hull legend Dean Windass.
Plans to tackle Kilimanjaro - one of the world’s highest mountains - were scuppered by Covid and instead the group took on a coast-to-coast walk across five days in intense heat, starting in Bowness-on-Solway and finishing in South Shields on Sunday.
A fundraising page has surpassed £30,000, which Mark told the Chronicle would be sent to different local charities in each of the members’ areas - with a focus on mental health.
But, the 52-year-old, who had a spell at Oakwell as a goalkeeping coach, added the campaign was ‘not about the money’.
“It’s more about raising awareness,” said Mark, from Hoyland.
“I’ve never done anything like the walk and it was quite emotional doing it.
“Some of the messages from people saying we’ve helped them put shivers up your back - it makes us feel proud to help.”