A FORMER professional athlete turned charity fundraiser was given a hero’s welcome, having returned from the challenge of a lifetime.
David Waterman, 40, took on the Marathon des Sables – known as the toughest footrace in the world.
He took on the challenge to raise money for the Oakley Waterman Foundation – a charity he set up after his son died of a rare brain tumour in 2005.
The charity provides caravan homes for children and families in a similar situation to enjoy a holiday together.
David – a former Pompey player – has raised more than £7,000 from the Marathon des Sables, which sees participants run 251km across the Sahara Desert in six days.
In celebration of his achievements and as a homecoming surprise, around 150 friends and family organised a surprise party at The Three Tuns pub in Elson Road, Gosport.
David said: ‘When I was back playing football I never thought I could achieve something like this.
‘The community has really put me in the right spirit and I had Oakley on my shoulder every step of the way.
‘I remember that on one of the days we did two marathons back-to-back and it was also the hottest day that we had out there.
‘You go through stages but the positive thoughts helped me to get through it.’
David’s friend, Peter Grundy, helped organise the surprise homecoming.
He said: ‘Dave has done some unbelievable stuff for the charity in the past.
‘The foundation is going from strength to strength every year, and he is at the forefront of that, with a growing army of people giving the charity a helping hand.
‘It is helping hundreds of children and families get the break they desperately need, which is so important to them.
‘To have raised another £10,000 for the charity is simply amazing, especially given how difficult the Marathon des Sables is.
‘After everything he has been through, I am amazed by how he continues to push himself and do everything with a smile on his face.’
Another friend, Leigh Bollard, 50 from Gosport, said: ‘I’ve known Dave for a long time, ever since his days at Pompey.
‘What Dave is doing is simply amazing because it can affect anyone at anytime – whether it is your children or someone else in your family.
‘All children in that position deserve a special holiday with their family, so it’s great that the charity can provide them with that.’