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Saturday, 25 October 2014

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Keswick to Barrow 2012 - None tougher than the Tonka team

A GROUP of “ordinary lads” have gone on to achieve extraordinary things through their involvement in the Keswick to Barrow walk.

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MONEY KINGS: Team Tonka Fingers pictured before the Keswick to Barrow Walk Submitted

What started as an informal challenge as teenagers has progressed to being a highly-organised, multi-team event, raising in excess of £115,000, plus gift aid, for their chosen charities through taking part in the annual walk and organising other events including race nights and sportsman’s dinners.

Team Tonka Fingers, so-called because your hands swell up over the duration of the walk, has been awarded the GSK Charity Trophy, for the fourth time this year, previously winning the award in 2007, 2008 and 2009 for being the team which has raised the most money.

The amount raised this year by one of the four Tonka Fingers teams entered was £7,405, which just fell short of the record, set by a Tonka Fingers team in 2008 of £7,553, neither of these amounts include any gift aid contribution.

This year they collected just short of £11,000, again excluding additional gift aid.

Organised by four friends, Mike Cooper, Darryl Dixon, David Laurie and Jamie Roberts, Tonka Fingers brings together participants from London to Aberdeen divided into a female team, a fast team and two fundraising teams.

“That’s how we work it; we’ve got the competitive side and the fund-raising side,” explains Mike.

“On average we raise £10,000 a year and have raised in excess of £115,000 to date, which is not bad considering it started with a group of lads from the pub.”

Tonka Fingers raises money for various charities that have a personal connection to their walkers.

“If one of our friends has a personal link with a charity then we will support that charity and nominate it to the K2B.

“To have chosen charities close to your heart works really well,” adds Mike.

“Some people do really well with sponsorship. One guy, Jimmy Moffett, raised over £2,500 this year.

“Two members of the Tonka Fingers team, Bill Laurie and Mike Gardiner have won the Pierce Armstrong Memorial Award on three occasions between them since it was introduced in 2008.

“The award is in recognition of the individual raising the largest sum for charity.

“Bill won the award in 2008 and 2010 and Mike in 2009.”

Although they have individually recorded competitive times in the past, the priority for the four organisers now is to get everybody over the finish line.

“A couple of us have finished with quite good times but, being organisers, we have a responsibility to get everybody to finish it,” says Mike, who adds that finishing the walk is the pinnacle of his day.

“I enjoy the experience of walking up the path and knowing I’ve achieved something. I’ve never not finished. I’ve had some very dark moments but always managed to finish.”

The other highlight is getting together with friends, some of whom they only see at the annual walk.

“It’s a really good bonding thing and we have a few beers afterwards – and the night before for some,” adds Mike.

“That’s the thing about Barrow – people who have had to move away still come back for the K2B and bring their friends.”

Members of Tonka Fingers have come to expect the clarion call at the start of each new year, when the group email is sent out.

“To us, we’re at the point where unless there’s something really, really pressing, we make a real effort to do it,” says Mike.

“The only one I missed recently was because Barrow (AFC) went to Wembley. It was a tough call but I decided to go to Wembley”.

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