Rex Clementine, in Sunday Island, 27 October 2013, with title “ Consider Botham for a State Award”
Sir Ian Botham announcing his walk during a media briefing in Colombo.
No Ashes contest passes by without the memory of Sir Ian Botham. About to be sacked as captain in 1981, Botham stepped down as England skipper in humiliation after collecting a pair in the Lord’s Test, with England trailing 1-0. What happened afterwards is history as playing under Mike Brearly, Botham won England the Ashes singlehandedly 3-1. The Ashes hero will be in Sri Lanka next week walking from Mankulam to Seenigama on a nine-day journey during which he will help raise funds to uplift the living standards of the poor and needy. While several Sri Lankan cricket stars are scheduled to join Sir Ian in his effort, Sourav Ganguly, Shane Warne, Michael Vaughan and rugby legend Morne du Plessis are also scheduled to take part. The funds generated will be directed to the Foundation of Goodness that has a charity running up at Seenigama which is about to establish another in Mankulam. How much funds he will raise, Sir Ian is not quite sure. “If we say one million, everyone will stop with one million. We will try to raise as much as we can. We are pretty good at highway robberies you know,” Sir Ian said recently during a media briefing. Sir Ian’s latest walk was in April for Leukemia Research and it raised a total of 1,600,000 British Pound.
“It’s the toughest thing that I have agreed to do. It’s going to be 40 degrees out there. But it’s for a great cause. When I came here soon after the tsunami I was devastated. I have also seen what people have lost in the north due to the war and these things moved me to do something. It’s a tough schedule to keep up, but I am determined. Nothing is going to stop me from completing the Walk,” Sir Ian told journalists in Colombo yesterday. “I have done several tough ones. There was one walk which was 1,000 miles long. Then there was another one which was over the Alps. But, this is going to be the toughest. Everyone is welcomed to join the Walk. But if you do join us please do some training and come and be prepared.”
Botham has been a prodigious fundraiser for charitable causes and so far has done 12 long-distance charity walks. His first walk was undertaken while still he was active as a player. His efforts were inspired whilst receiving treatment for a broken toe. In a Taunton hospital, Botham took a wrong turn into a children’s ward and he was devastated to learn that some of the children had only weeks to live. Since then, his efforts have raised more than 12 million Pounds for charity with most of them going for Leukemia Research.
“They were playing board games and looked pretty lively to me – so I was absolutely stunned when a doctor explained they were unlikely to survive,” Botham recalled. “I felt so helpless, yet I couldn’t get these children out of my mind. I really wanted to do something for them. I’ve always been a keen walker and, because so much money is needed for research, I knew I could raise a considerable amount by drumming up sponsorship for walks
Botham’s magnanimous gesture is an example for other sportsmen to come forward and join charity initiatives. Sportsmen with their popularity can do a lot for charities. As for Sri Lankans, they will show their appreciation to the great all-rounder during his walks that will pass several leading cricket centers. As for the Sri Lanka state, it can recognise Botham’s magnanimous contribution by handing him one of the three State Honours given for foreigners. Whilst the Walk will raise funds, it will also give the country a lot of positive media exposure.
ALSO See Sarah Botham: “Island Adventure…” http://www.thesundayleader.lk/wp-content/uploads/2013/10/28-293.pdf
NOTA BENE: Sir Ian Botham’s Big Sri Lanka walk will also commence on the 1st of November which is the first day of the Murali Cup. proceeds from the walk will also go towards the Foundation of Goodness. Here are some helpful links.