Thursday, 29 September 2011
SOLO ALPS CHALLENGE FOR SIR BOBBY
Wendy Taylor, the head of Media at Newcastle United, has given herself a mountain to climb. In fact, she has given herself several. Beginning this Saturday (1 October), Wendy is embarking on a solo 180km trek around the Alps, an extraordinary challenge which she is undertaking to raise vital funds for the Sir Bobby Robson Foundation.
A keen amateur climber in her rare moments of free time away from running the press office of the club Sir Bobby both supported and managed, Wendy will travel through three countries - France, Italy and Switzerland - climbing a total elevation gain of 28,500ft, close to the height of Mount Everest, during her seven-day adventure.
Setting off from Les Houches, France, Wendy is tackling a more taxing variation of the Tour du Mont Blanc, which circles the Mont Blanc Massif, the highest mountain in the European Union. To make the task even more arduous, she is attempting to complete the trek inside seven days rather than the more traditional 11 or 12 and is doing it on her own.
There will be few creature comforts; no hotels, no gourmet meals, not even a tent. "I'll be carrying a bivvy bag on my back and camping under the stars," says Wendy, who joined Newcastle in the summer of 2010 after a spell in a similar role at Newcastle Airport. "I'll have food for seven days with me: cereal bars, energy gels for lunch, dehydrated survival-style packet meals for dinner.
"It gets dark at around 7.20pm at the moment, so I'll be setting off before sunrise every morning. Being by myself for so long will be one of the hardest tests, so I'm hoping to stay in touch with the outside world through my mobile phone and Twitter. I'll have seven spare batteries for my Blackberry weighing down my backpack!"
While Wendy was raised as a Sheffield Wednesday supporter (her granddad was former Wednesday manager, Eric Taylor), she was always aware of Sir Bobby's contribution to football, in the North East and beyond. When she arrived at St James' Park, she quickly came to appreciate his lingering influence at all levels of the club, as well as the important work carried out in his name by the Foundation.
"Working at Newcastle, it felt right to me to support a charity close to the heart of the club and the people connected to it," Wendy says. "There's a portrait of Sir Bobby in the manager's office at the training ground and there's a natural synergy there.
"I always admired him for his management, his time with England, but I didn't know so much about what he had done here and what he meant to people. I certainly do now. When you speak to fans, to people who worked with him or played for him, they all talk about him in such high terms. You mention his name and people want to sit down and talk about their memories."
Wendy's day-to-day work involves dealing with media enquiries, responding to stories, both positive and negative, handling press conferences, organising player interviews and taking managerial charge of Newcastle's matchday programme, website and nufc.tv. It is a relentless endeavour, magnified by global fascination with the Premier League.
"Sir Bobby seems to be universally missed and universally adored," she adds. "To be able to do something like this to raise money for his Foundation feels like a real privilege as well as a challenge and I'm sure it'll be that which keeps me going."
Since its launch in 2008, the Sir Bobby Robson Foundation has raised over £3.5 million to help find more effective treatments for cancer.
It funds projects within the Newcastle upon Tyne Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust, which directly benefit cancer patients from across the north east and Cumbria, including the clinical trials of drugs at the Sir Bobby Robson Cancer Trials Research Centre.
Wendy will be providing regular updates on her progress through her Twitter page. You can follow and offer her encouragement at @wendytaylor13 and please contribute to her fundraising efforts at www.justgiving.com/wendynufc.