In the opening months of 2018, I had a eureka moment sitting in a bar in central Glasgow. Along with family, I had organised a number of fundraising events for the British Heart Foundation (BHF), including quiz nights and a 5-a-side tournament, raising roughly £10k along the way. However, I was inspired by the actions of the Paradise Steps Group who raise funds for a number of charities by running up and down the steps in some of the most famous football stadiums in the world. I had heard about their exploits at Celtic Park and wondered if I could challenge myself to do the same, albeit walking every step.
I approached the Celtic Foundation to discuss options of working with them to raise funds for the BHF and, of course, the Celtic Foundation by completing the challenge of walking up and down every step in Celtic Park. In early May 2018, after a few months of training walking up and down steps outside Hampden Park and at Kelvingrove Park, I along with nine colleagues, friends and family, started the challenge.
To attend a sell-out match at Celtic Park under the lights with the fans singing in unison is truly an incredible sight, but to enter the stadium when every seat is empty and all you have with you is the support of your fellow fundraisers is a different proposition – the stadium is as intimidating as it is inspiring. With the early morning sunshine lighting up Paradise, our group made their way through each of the steps determined not to let the opportunity pass us by. The Lisbon Lions, North Stand, Jock Stein, Main Stand and safe standing sections were all conquered with the knowledge that £8670 had been raised, which was thereafter split equally to support the amazing work carried out by both charities.
I then attended a Lisbon anniversary celebration along with family and a good friend from the BHF. The function was held in the Kerrydale Suite at Celtic Park and there I met a number of the volunteers from the Celtic Foundation, who amazed me with their passion and dedication for the charity. Their efforts go such a long way to making the charity successful in changing lives here in Scotland and across the world.
Fast forward to April 2019 when I received an e-mail from the Celtic Foundation inviting me to take part in the Magners ‘Goals for Good’ match to be played on the hallowed surface at Celtic Park. This was obviously an opportunity I could not turn down.
As a child, I loved nothing more than playing football, but with a serious heart condition I was advised by my consultants when I was nine-years-old that I would never be allowed to play at any level. I couldn’t play for my school or join in with friends in local teams. My footballing was restricted to local matches at the park with friends and often interrupted by multiple breaks for me to get my breath back.
My condition, known as Tetralogy of Fallot, meant I was born with four separate defects of my heart and, by the age of nine, I’d had four life-changing heart operations, two of these coming before I was nine-months-old. I have had three pulmonary valve replacement surgeries, one of these when I was 19 when doctors fought to save my life during a long period in hospital.
To be given an opportunity to get changed in the home dressing room, walk down the tunnel and take part in a match at Celtic Park was a dream come true. The night itself is a memory that will live with me forever and, again following in the charitable origins of the club, the event itself raised a further £20k donated by Magners to the Celtic Foundation.
Like most fans, my interaction with the Celtic Foundation involved buying a ticket to the charity matches held at the ground or making a donation on ‘Badge Day’ at the end of the season, but the last two years have given me a greater insight into the work carried out by the charity and the impact it has both locally and in countries around the globe.
Martin DonaldsonListen to the award-winning A Celtic State of Mind podcast