Fundraiser Speedo Mick saluted the support he has received from Evertonians as he continues on a gruelling 1,000-mile walk from John o’ Groats to Land’s End, describing Blues fans as “the wind beneath my wings”.
Mick started his epic trek back on 10 December – which he is undertaking wearing just his trademark swimming trunks and hat - and admits the challenge has been even more demanding than he envisaged.
He was forced to take a break on Monday after suffering an injury to his calf but revealed how a generous donation and offer of support from Everton Chairman Bill Kenwright provided a significant boost.
“I went to the derby game and bumped into Bill,” said Mick, whose full name is Michael Cullen. “I told him I’d done my calf and he said I could come to Finch Farm to get some physio on it.
“He put an extra few hundred quid in the bucket, too. He even wanted to give me his coat, but I was saying, ‘I don’t want it - that would be cheating!’
“Everton have always been fantastic with me, though, helping me with my fundraising around Goodison Park. They’ve allowed me to be myself and to feel part of the Club.”
All money raised will support health and wellbeing community projects across Merseyside, which will run by a new charity Mick has founded, named Leave The Light On.
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Mick has raised more than £75,000 so far and explained how that backing - as well as a steady stream of messages of encouragement - have galvanised him during particularly punishing stretches of his walk.
“The whole city has got behind me - it’s been phenomenal,” he said.
“I’m not a big football star, but the support has been incredible. It’s made me feel like a bit of a superstar.
“If it wasn’t for that support, I’d not be able to do this. I feel drained. I’ve been struggling every day. But then I look at the messages the donations and the encouragement, and it gives me a lift.
“I’ve had support from all over the country – and I’d like to thank every single person that has donated so far.
#Theyorkshiredales is brutal and just as cold as the bloody #glens #falseaconomy #icicles #nospuds #speedomick #1000mile #charitywalk in me shreddies it’s brutal alright 🥶🌪✌️ pic.twitter.com/xYe1Omz5b3— speedomick (@speedomick) January 2, 2020
“Evertonians have had my back since day one. It’s a kooky thing, what I’m doing, but they get it.
“Everton fans are like the wind beneath my wings! I’m going day by day at the moment.
“It all started with the Everton fans and I can’t thank them enough. They have helped me feel good about myself. I love them.”
Mick first joined forces with Everton to start his unique fundraising efforts five years ago.
He detailed how only one previous challenge came close to matching the physical and mental demands of his Britain-long hike.
“Only swimming the Channel beats this one,” he said.
"I’ve got a battle on my hands. Mentally, I’m absolutely drained. It’s obviously physically challenging, too.
“There have been some really tough days. When I went across the border from Scotland into England, I was thinking it might get bit easier. But as soon as I did that, it was terrible!
“We were on the Yorkshire Dales and it was blowing a gale. It’s really taken it out of me.
“Christmas was tough, too. I was in Glasgow, someone put me up and I had a great Christmas dinner, but it was sad being away from my family.”
Mick revealed he hopes to finish his walk at John o’ Groats on 31 January, but admits there it could extend into February, depending on fitness and weather conditions.
He is closing on his £100,000 fundraising target.
“The donations have gone through the roof,” he added. “It’s been unbelievable what’s happened.
“We’re not far off. It would be great to get there.”