UPDATE: £40k mark passed as Sussex football fundraisers run for NHS heroes

It started as an attempt to get the football community to raise a useful £3,000 to aid the overworked NHS. But it’s turned into a county-wide running festival that’s so far netted more than £40,000.

Kevin Keehan after his run

Sussex footballers Kevin Keehan and Scott Kirkwood wanted to put their spare lockdown time to good use and get a handful of pals from their present and former clubs to run 5k, record their efforts with a photo and donate a few quid to the NHS.

But on Saturday (Apr 18) they posted this update:

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£40,000 RAISED FOR THE NHS! Thank you so much! Within our footballing community we have had over 1,250 runners take part in our #RUN5K4NHS campaign, from over 100 clubs & associations. Covering over a combined 6500km. With over 2,500 people donating.

Scott Kirkwood gives a thumbs-up after his effort

Speaking to us a few days ago Keehan said he and Kirkwood couldn’t believe how it’s taken off – and don’t quite know where it will end.

As well as players from dozens of Sussex clubs having taken part, it’s snowballed. Coaches, managers, physios, club volunteers and even bar staff have all got involved.

The profile of the fundraising drive has been boosted by England Lionesses and former Brighton and Hove Albion players doing their own #Run5k4NHS.

Keehan has played for Peacehaven, East Preston, Horsham and Shoreham and is now player-manager at AFC Varndeanians, while fellow midfielder Kirkwood has served Horsham, Whitehawk and Bognor and is now at Burgess Hill.

Karen Carney enjoyed her 5k

That means the two 34-year-olds both have plenty of contacts, and the nature of Sussex football is that every new person who gets involved also plenty more potential backers.

Keehan said: “Scott and I have been close mates for a long time and were talking on the phone at the start of the lockdown about how we were getting on with this different way of life.

“We were both going out running every day and Scott mentioned that his sister worked for the NHS and how there was so much pressure on all the staff.

“It occurred to us we know a lot of football people across Sussex so we had the idea of getting them to run 5k to raise money for the NHS.

Dom Di Paola with his efforts

“The initial target was to raise £3,000 and we put it out on Twitter and Instagram. Loads of people were quick to take up the challenge and we passed £3,000 really quickly.

“Since the start it has just snowballed.”

The funds will go to the Brighton and Sussex University Hospitals NHS charitable funds and staff have been in touch with Keehan and Kirkwood to express their gratitude.

England Lionesses Gemma Davison, Karen Carney and Izzy Christiansen have taken part, along with ex-Albion pros Dean Cox, Adam El-Abd, Tommy Fraser and Kerry Mayo.

Russell Martin, player/manager of MK Dons has also done it. He hails from Brighton and was playing for Lewes under-18s before signing for Wycombe Wanderers.

Keehan said: “Because of the way the football community is - it is full of hard-working people who are always happy to get stuck in - we always thought there would be a good response but never in our wildest dreams did we think we’d get a response like we have.

“Scott and I both did our runs at the start. I did 21.30 and Scott 21.32 – I was always going to beat him, of course – but there have been some really good times well under 20 minutes.

“And some of the donations have been amazing. I saw that one player who’s only 17 had donated £270 so I asked him how he’d managed that, and he just said he’d asked family members to donate and that was much he got.

“We’re not going to ease up now. We’ll keep this up for as long as people keep supporting it and we don’t know how long that will be.”

If you want to get involved and see the latest runners and their times, check out @Run5k4NHS on Twitter - or go to https://www.justgiving.com/fundraising/run5k4nhs to donate.

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