Former footballer joins stadium challenge for PHA UK

PRESS RELEASE: Former Stoke City star Liam Lawrence will join a group of football fans walking from Sheffield to Stoke to raise money for a rare heart and lung disease charity.

When Stoke City host Sheffield Wednesday on Saturday 30 March, the group will walk 55 miles from Hillsborough Stadium to the bet365 Stadium for the start of the match, supporting the Pulmonary Hypertension Association UK (PHA UK).

The challenge has been organised by Mark Harris, 42, from Rode Heath, whose brother Paul has pulmonary hypertension (PH) – a serious life-limiting condition affecting the heart and lungs. It will be the fourth time Mark has completed the 17-hour trek, and the second time in a year after the group walked from Stoke to Sheffield in September. In total over £10,000 has been raised for the PHA UK.

Former Stoke and Republic of Ireland midfielder Liam Lawrence will join the nine fans on their walk. Liam, who made 113 appearances for the Potters between 2007 and 2011, said: “I was at the game at Hillsborough back in September and saw the guys walking around the pitch, and then Mark got in touch with me to see if I could help.

“I’ve never done anything like this before – I’ve played in charity games in the past but walking from Sheffield to Stoke overnight is completely different and no easy thing to do. I’m really looking forward to it and it’s a brilliant way to raise awareness of the great work PHA UK are doing.”

Liam will join Mark Harris and the group of Stoke City and Sheffield Wednesday fans on the pitch at Hillsborough at 7pm on Friday 29 March. They will stop off at the Royal Hallamshire Hospital in Sheffield where Paul is treated, to provide the initial donation of £10,000, before trekking across the Peak District through the night to reach the bet365 stadium in time for kick-off.

Mark, who is Dean of Higher Education at the Trafford College Group, said: “We were completely overwhelmed by the support from everyone when we did the walk earlier this season; hence the return leg!

“We’ve had fantastic support from Stoke City, who will be announcing us as we hobble on to the pitch at half time”.

“We’re also massively thankful that Liam Lawrence is coming along for the walk – having an ex-Stoke player in our ranks is sure to give the guys that extra bit of motivation to make it to the finish.”

Mark’s brother Paul, a 39-year-old civil servant, lives in Kidsgrove in Newcastle-under-Lyme. He was diagnosed with pulmonary hypertension in September 2015 and is hoping the challenge will help raise awareness of the rare condition, which affects just 7,000 people in the UK. There is no cure.

Symptoms of PH typically involve breathlessness, black-outs, fatigue, and swelling around the ankles, arms and stomach. The condition affects the ability to carry out basic tasks and get around.

Paul said: “The effort the lads have put in for the walk has been great. I think they have a put a bit more training in this year now a Stoke City favourite has joined the team!

“It can be challenging trying to explain to people the unfortunate outcome of living with PH especially as I look so well now.  I hope this walk will increase awareness and raise some money for PHA UK as they, along with family and friends have been fundamental in supporting my wellbeing.”

The team taking on the walk is made up of Mark Harris, Rob Sandall, Noel Scott, Marc Fouldes, Mark Evans, Julian Wilshaw, Josh Armstrong, Matt Carr and Liam Lawrence.

Paul and his father Steve will drive ahead in a car filled with supplies and park up every few miles to deliver refreshments.

The PHA UK is based in Sheffield and is the only charity in the UK dedicated to supporting the PH community made up of patients, their family and carers and NHS professionals.

Chair Iain Armstrong added: “We’re very grateful to Mark and his friends for taking on this challenge again, and it’s fantastic that it has now become an annual event. We’re also extremely thankful to Stoke City for supporting PHA UK”.

“Events like are really valued by the charity because they help to raise awareness of the difficulties our members face every day living with pulmonary hypertension.

To support the challenge, visit www.justgiving.com/fundraising/peaks4pha.

Liam Lawrence (left) with Mark Harris, who organised the walk.

Last medically reviewed: March, 2019 • March, 2022