Martin Donaldson: My Virtual Cycle Around the SPFL

WHEN I chose to organise a fundraising challenge during the summer of 2020, I wanted to ensure that I was combining my love of football while supporting two incredible charities very close to my heart.

With government directives advising to stay at home and reduce contact with others, I decided to test my endurance in a long distance cycle (albeit virtual) around every top flight stadium in the SPFL.

The first charity was Celtic FC Foundation, who were quick to focus their efforts in supporting the most vulnerable individuals and NHS frontline staff as part of the Football For Good Fund, creating different initiatives to allow fans to support the relief effort and the idea of the “9-in-a-row” challenge really caught my imagination.

So, over the course of nine weeks, I set myself a challenge of cycling nine miles every day on my exercise bike in my garden shed. The hope being that by the time the challenge was complete, any donations received could support the work carried out by my two nominated charities and perhaps fans of all clubs would be starting to make their way through turnstiles again across the country but, unfortunately, that wasn’t the case.

The second charity I supported through this challenge was British Heart Foundation (BHF) in Scotland. I was born with a Congenital Heart defect and have gone through a number of lifesaving and life changing open heart surgeries.  The advances made by researchers and the dedication of doctors and specialists over the years have allowed me to live as normal a life as possible.

Without the research carried out by the BHF, I like many others simply would not be here. The charity helps fund the research that makes so much of a difference and assists in changing lives across the West of Scotland and beyond.

I completed the challenge in October and by then I had cycled over 900km and, thanks to the incredible generosity of my family, friends, colleagues and fellow supporters, I managed to raise in excess of £3.5K, which has been shared between these wonderful charities. That 900km saw me make a virtual stop at every SPFL stadium, as well as Hampden Park, along the way.

Celtic Park was the final venue on my itinerary and for me, there was no better place to complete my journey. Since my first visit in 1983 for a match against Brechin, to the most recent in March 2020 against St Mirren, the place still holds a special place in my heart.

No matter how the stadium or Club may change over the years, the link to its charitable origins is one of the most important factors for me as a Celtic fan and I’m proud that Celtic FC Foundation ensures that Brother Walfrid’s work still continues to this day.

Martin Donaldson, Celtic FC Foundation Fundraiser