Ready for New York marathon despite super storm Sandy
FUNDRAISER Matt Holdback refuses to let storm damage stop him proudly pounding the streets of New York.
Despite Hurricane Sandy, the city's marathon was yesterday still on and the 30-year-old is today due to fly to the US ready for the race on Sunday.
He and fellow Cheltenham-based friend Tasha Brown will fly to Boston and then travel by coach to New York.
The pair have been training for 10 months for the event, which they will run in to raise money for the Leckhampton Court Hospice. Both have known people who have benefited from its care and, together, they hope to raise £5,000 in all.
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As well as running in the marathon, they have been holding a number of other fundraising events.
One of the most successful was a man auction at the Hotel du Vin in Cheltenham.
Matt said: "We had about 150 people there and one of the men to be auctioned off was a friend of mine, former Cheltenham Town footballer Damian Spencer.
"He was bought for only £20 but, to be fair, it was early in the night.
"Later, after the drinks had flowed, people were happier to put larger bids in."
Matt, a personal trainer, of Sandford Street, Cheltenham, said other men 'bought' by ladies in the audience included two personal trainer friends of his and University of Gloucestershire rugby players.
He added: "It was fantastic. Everybody had a great night. Even I was auctioned off, for £70.
"We raised £2,000 in all so we're nearly up to our £5,000 target. We just need a few more donations.
"They can be made online at http://uk.virginmoneygiving.com/team/MattandTashaNYC."
Running in New York will be another proud moment for Matt, following on from carrying the Olympic torch in Gloucester in the summer.
It recognised the fact that sport helped him overcome select mutism which stopped him uttering a word for four years.
It started when he was just four or five and he hardly spoke outside his family situation because he never felt comfortable.
But he managed to communicate through sport and found playing football was a way of communicating without having to do it verbally. Over time, he completely came out of his shell and now runs holiday camps for children called Just Camps.