Next time you hear a manager say his players are tired, point him in the direction of Jonjo Heuerman. The 13-year-old West Ham fan from Kent recently completed an 800-mile bike ride round all 20 Premier League grounds as the latest of a string of challenges which have seen him raise £207,000 for the Bobby Moore Fund in just three years.
And as his mum Donna told Blowing Bubbles, it started with a mistake. ‘When Jonjo was nine, his gran died of cancer, and his sister spent the next year fund-raising as a form of therapy, bringing in £10,000,’ she explained. ‘When she finished, he said he wanted to do something and suggested a Wembley to West Ham sponsored walk. I thought ‘They’re both in London, they must be close’ – but it was 27 miles! I’d said yes, though, and couldn’t change my mind, and that’s how it began.’
By journey’s end, having set himself a target of beating his sister’s £10,000, Jonjo had raised £22,000, much of it through angel donations – cancer victims remembered by their families – on his shirt. The money and names kept on coming in, so the challenges continued. What began as a oneoff is now a way of life. ‘He always does them in spring half-term, which is when Bobby Moore’s and his gran’s anniversaries are,’ Donna explained.
‘We don’t encourage him to take time off school to do them – this year was the first time – so we have to plan routes around the time we have and his physical capabilities. ‘This year a West Ham fan donated a support vehicle, so I didn’t have to ride with him, but he’s only 13, and watching him out there cycling up to 11 hours a day in all kinds of weather can be hard for a mother to do. ‘Fortunately we had lots of people sign up to ride stretches with him, and when we got to Hull, three off-duty police officers turned up to join him. They put the word round the force, and for the rest of the way he always had a police escort.’
The end-of-challenge sponsored walk to the Bobby Moore statue near the Boleyn Ground is now a tradition and a chance for Jonjo’s backers to join him, as well as a warm-down after such huge physical exertion. And once the challenge is over, it’s back to the usual business of being 13. ‘His school is very understanding – they regard it as part of his education,’ Donna said. ‘He likes to keep school and charity work separate, though. Once he went to 10 Downing Street after being nominated for an award – and forgot to mention it at school!’
During his latest trek Jonjo received a letter from David Cameron, which he said was one of his most rewarding moments so far. ‘That was a huge surprise,’ he said. ‘I’d met him before when I went to Number 10 but I was incredibly shy and didn’t have a souvenir of it – this reminds me of what he said, and how encouraging he was.’ Although Jonjo describes his on-going total of £207,000 as being ‘more than I ever thought I’d get’, he has no plans to stop until a cure for cancer is discovered – and as he has already demonstrated in bizarre circumstances, he certainly can keep on going.
‘After a day’s riding I was cycling in my sleep,’ he revealed. ‘One time mum had to wake me up because I was kicking her so hard!’ Jonjo said the most enjoyable part of his challenges is the walk to the West Ham World Cup winners’ statue, as so many backers get to join in, but no sooner is one challenge done than preparation starts for the next. ‘Organisation is a year-round operation,’ said Donna. ‘Next year’s 50th anniversary of the 1966 World Cup is definitely in our minds. One idea is some sort of Berlin to Wembley event – nothing’s definite yet, though.’
One thing that is certain, though, is that in just under 12 months’ time, Britain’s most remarkable teenager will be undertaking another challenge, because, as he puts it, ‘since I started doing this, I’ve heard more good news than bad, which means we’re winning, but there’s still some bad news, and I don’t like to hear that.’ For all his ambitions, however, there is no chance of this 13-yearold getting ideas above his station. ‘The day after the walk finished, I woke up thinking I had to do my fundraising then realised I didn’t’, he said. ‘I had homework to do instead’.