Team to tackle 100km Sahara desert trek to raise cash for diabetes

Mike Parker, Graham Gillman, Gary Burch and Floyd Harris hold up Gary's son, Gary Burch (Jr).''Picture by Keith Woodland
Mike Parker, Graham Gillman, Gary Burch and Floyd Harris hold up Gary's son, Gary Burch (Jr).''Picture by Keith Woodland
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FOUR hardy mates will be taking on the challenge of a lifetime as they tackle a gruelling 100km walk through one of the world’s hottest deserts.

Builder Gary Burch is spearheading the fundraising charge across the baron wastes of the Sahara to raise much-needed cash for a charity close to his heart.

Joined by mates Floyd Harris, 25, Mickey Parker, 35, and Graham Gillman, 33 – all of Leigh Park – he aims to raise £20,000 for the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation.

Two of Gary’s three children – Shanelle, 17, and Gary, 11 – have Type 1 diabetes. It’s a condition that has a major impact on the youngsters’ lives and confidence.

Superfit Gary now wants to show his children – and others – that they can do anything if they put their minds to it.

The 34-year-old, of Rosemary Mary Way, Horndean, said: ‘I want to be an inspiration to my kids.

‘It’s about showing them that you can do anything. We all come from the working classes. There’s nothing for people to aspire to.

‘You can go through life and the most you might have to look forward to is going down to the pub.

‘We just want to show that whatever you put your mind to you can achieve. I want to let my kids know that it doesn’t matter that they have diabetes.

‘If they really want to do something, all they have to do is put their mind to it.’

The team will be jetting off on November 2 for the challenge, which will be split over four days.

They will have to brave heats of more than 40C while trekking and wearing 20kg backpacks full of food, water, clothes and camping materials.

Training for the task has been tough, with the band of fundraisers regularly trudging over the South Downs to harden their legs.

But father-of-three Gary said: ‘We’re all normal blokes. There is nowhere around here that has the heat of the desert, so it’s been tough to get ready.

‘It’s been pitch black and we’re wearing loads of clothes. We looked like a right bunch of weirdos.

‘But it’s going to be totally different out there. Every step will be like taking three.

‘It’s going to be mentally challenging.’

Gary is no stranger to pushing his body to the limit.

Earlier this year he appeared on the BBC Two’s Special Forces – Ultimate Hell Week.

The programme saw ordinary civilians being put through their paces by tough veterans from the globe’s most elite military units.

So far he and his team have raised almost £5,600 on their JustGiving page.

Gary added the support of Floyd, Mickey and Graham meant the world to him.

‘I can’t believe the help of my mates,’ he said. ‘What they’re doing means so much to me and my family.’

About 400,000 people live with Type 1 diabetes in the UK – 29,000 of them are children.

It’s a genetic condition that requires daily monitoring and supervision.

A person with Type 1 will have around 65,000 injections and measure their blood glucose more than 80,000 times in their lifetime.

To support Gary and his team, see