A testing journey for a group of fund-raisers finished on Saturday, raising nearly £20,000 in the process.
The Hike4Hopey charity walkers set out to walk 333 miles in memory of Lee Hope, a control firefighter from Newcastle.
The 33-year-old died last year from cancer, aged just 33 – leaving wife Amy Richardson and young daughter, Livia.
Lee’s brother Scott, from North Shields, put together the fund-raising challenge in aid of the Sir Bobby Robson Foundation – walking from the Sir Bobby Robson statue at Portman Road, home of Ipswich Town, to the one at St James’ Park.
Along with eight others, they set off from Ipswich on April 18 – the day after Newcastle United had played Ipswich Town.
But only two were able to complete the whole challenge with the others reluctantly forced to retire.
And they were joined by friends, family and colleagues on the final leg from Durham to Newcastle, arriving at St James’ Park on Saturday.
Scott, who along with Chris Wall from Cramlington completed every step, said: “When we thought about doing this walk for Lee, it was like we were just coming home from the match. He was a massive Newcastle fan so it just felt right.
“It’s proved to be a lot harder than we thought it would be, physically and emotionally.
“We were on the road for the first anniversary of Lee’s diagnosis with cancer and we were walking the day after Newcastle were promoted, so there have been highs and lows. But everyone’s worked together and it’s been an incredibly positive experience.”
The walkers were given a warm welcome at St James’ Park, escorted along Strawberry Place by two fire engines and greeted by Tony Corcoran playing match-day tunes on his fiddle and an enthusiastic crowd of family, friends and well-wishers.
Lady Elsie, who was waiting to meet them next to the statue of her husband, said: “This is an absolutely magnificent achievement. I’m very glad everyone’s home safe and sound and I hope they’re all filled with pride.
“The number of people involved on the final day shows how well-regarded Lee must have been.
“We’re very proud of everyone who walked on this challenge. And we’re grateful to all the wonderful people who have helped and supported them.”
Scott, a Control Firefighter for Tyne and Wear Fire and Rescue Service, added: “The support we’ve had from the Fire and Rescue Service in particular has been incredible.
“Every night we’ve stayed at a different fire station and the feeling on arrival, being welcomed and looked after by colleagues we’ve not met before, has been something special. I’ll never forget it.”
Lee’s widow, Amy Richardson, was unable to complete the challenge but walked on the first day from Ipswich and much of the emotional final day – from Durham to Newcastle – with family and friends.
During Hike4Hopey, the walkers received messages of support from Alan Shearer, Rob Lee, Steve Harper, Michelle Heaton, FIFA, Newcastle United and Ipswich Town.
Hike4Hopey has already raised more than £17,000 through the walk and other fundraising events including a cycle ride and family fun day.
There were also bucket collections at 16 North East B&Q stores over the Easter weekend and a celebration dinner is planned for May.
Sir Bobby Robson launched his Foundation in 2008 and it has gone on to raise more than £10million to find more effective ways to detect and treat cancer.
To donate to the Sir Bobby Robson Foundation through #Hike4Hopey, please visit: www.justgiving.com/Hike4Hopey