Damien: My Torchbearer Story

Here is Damien’s Olympic Torchbearer story in his own words:

In the summer of 2010, I’d had some personal problems resulting in the breakdown of my marriage. I moved back in with my Mum and was feeling pretty sorry for myself. But, my life changed when I heard about the illness of an old friend, Wayne, who I used to babysit for many years ago.

He really wasn’t very well at all and was in hospital undergoing chemotherapy for Acute myeloid leukemia. I went to visit him in hospital and he looked like he’d gone 10 rounds with Mike Tyson, bruised and battered from the treatments and affects of the cancer. He had tubes coming out of his neck and was clearly in a lot of pain. But he didn’t complain once. He sat on his hospital bed, laughing and joking with his brother, Carl. All of a sudden, I didn’t feel sorry for myself any more.

On 18th December, after 2 bouts of chemotherapy and no luck with a suitable bone marrow donor, the doctors told Wayne his cancer was not treatable. So, he went home and married his childhood sweetheart – Sammy, in a fairytale white wedding – under a blanket of snow. He was very ill by this point and had to use a wheelchair. But he plucked up the courage and strength to walk his bride down the aisle. There wasn’t a dry eye in the church!

Wayne & Damien at Wayne and Sammy's wedding

Wayne died just over 2 weeks later. He was 26.

I’d been so touched by his bravery and courage, that I was determined his battle with the disease would not be in vain. So, along with the help of an incredible group of lads, I set up Team Wayne. This group of inspiring guys consisted of: Kev Giles, Mike Murray, James Bowyer, Carl Wright (Wayne’s brother) and Kev Midgeley. Between us, we pledged to raise £2000 in his memory for Leukaemia & Lymphoma Research. In order to raise this sum, we vowed to complete the 3 peaks challenge, climbing the highest mountains in England, Scotland and Wales within 24 hours.

Word quickly spread among the local community in our hometown of Cricklade and we were inundated with offers of support. We had donations of equipment, sponsorship money and a team of friends also organised a fund-raising disco to help us on our way.

Despite all the support and planning (including successfully scaling 2 of the 3 peaks in training) our actual attempt at the challenge didn’t quite go to plan.

We climbed the wrong mountain!

Yes, despite Ben Nevis being the highest peak in the whole of the UK, we managed to take a wrong turn and scaled the wrong peak. The whole story of how events unfolded that day can be found in my blog post ‘Dave Nevis’.

Amazingly, our story made the national press. With headlines in the Telegraph, The Sun and Metro, we were also featured on BBC2’s “Have I Got News For You”. Incredible stuff! The extra media coverage ironically helped our cause and we went on to raise over £10,000 for Leukaemia & Lymphoma Research.

Since then, Carl and I took part in the Great South Run and we plan to carry on fundraising in Wayne’s memory. One day, I hope to scale Kilimanjaro. But next time, I’ll make sure I climb the right mountain!

Wayne’s mum Kay nominated me to carry the Olympic Torch. You can read her nomination on the London2012 Website.

Damien setup ‘Team Wayne’ in memory of my son Wayne Wilson, who passed away from Leukaemia in January. Team Wayne raised over £10,000 for Leukaemia Research in their attempt at the ‘National 3 Peaks Challenge’, climbing the highest mountains in England, Scotland and Wales. Damien’s determination and hard work meant that not only did Team Wayne raise thousands of pounds for charity, but he also helped me and the rest of the family through our grieving period at the time of our loss. He is an inspiration to many young people in our whole community and I cannot think of a better person to carry the Olympic Torch. If he is one of the ones chosen, he will represent the whole of Cricklade as well as (of course) Team Wayne. I know my son will be running alongside him, too. Please choose Damien, he deserves it.

If my story has inspired you, please click on the Team Wayne ‘Donate‘ page.

Finally, you can follow my journey as an Olympic Torchbearer on Twitter – @damiendavis