We’ve have been supported by some fantastic people over the years and one of the most notable ones so far is Daz White. Over the last year, RAF physical trainer Daz has lead a team of men to complete some amazing physical challenges, all in aid of raising money and awareness for Dreams & Wishes.
He completed his final challenge at the beginning of September, when he and two others pull a Red Arrow Jet over 130m along the runway at RAF Scampton. Daz was inspired to work in aid of the charity after his family member, and Dreams & Wishes’ first Young Ambassador, Macsen Giess sadly passed away after suffering from Leukaemia. To date, Daz has raised over £3000 for the charity, which has provided vital funds to ensure that we continue to grant as many wishes as we can.
Daz got in touch recently to let us know how his fundraising journey has been, which you can read below:
‘On 17 October 2012, I received a phone call whilst in South Africa. I was preparing to lead an expedition across the Drakensberg Mountain when I heard of the terrible news that a very strong and brave young boy finally lost his battle against Leukaemia.
These stories are common around the world but this one was painful as Macsen was family. 5 days of trekking across magnetic rock over 3000m above sea level can really let the mind wander.
Before the second night in a tent, I was already thinking of ways to take my body to extremes to raise money to support the charity which supported our Macsen. Nothing would ever match the physical changes that he had to endure but I was willing to do everything that I needed in his memory.
Within 4 weeks of arriving back in the UK, I was assembling a team of like-minded people with young children themselves who would share my motivation for the challenges ahead.
Our first goal was to establish a training regime that would ensure that all challenges would be met but my ultimate challenge was to tow a Red Arrow Jet. The inspiration coming from things that Macsen would have loved to have seen and to have been a part of.
Before we knew all of our challenges we began training to develop strength. These tailor made sessions left full grown men in heaps on the floor in the gymnasium. Even sessions in the snow were conducted, testing our bodies to the max in the early stages. At our peak, we had 8 in our training team, but as anticipated, only three made it through the gruelling year of training and change to take a place attached to the front of a world famous Red Arrow Hawk Jet.
Having spoken to Macsen’s mum, Ceryl, she fully endorsed what I set out to achieve and knowing that I had her support meant that nothing was going to stop us. Our first challenge came round very quickly as we entered the Lincoln 10km road race. We were all capable of completing the distance but we were in the middle of our muscular growth phase of training so the run was like carrying a small child with you! We had lots of support and we were able to spread the word of the tremendous work carried out by Dreams & Wishes.
7 weeks later we were at it again. To mark the 60th anniversary of the first Everest summit, we set a challenge to climb to the summit using a 6 metre climbing tower. The original plan was to climb from the height of base camp but on the day, it appeared to be too easy. We quickly re-thought the situation and decide to climb from sea level to the summit (8848 vertical metres). It reminded us of the kind of pain thresholds that the suffering children would be going through and the relief of completing each challenge made everything seem so special.
Next up was the big one, and the one that everybody had been waiting for! The Red Arrow Pull. We carefully did our calculations and realised that our progress with training so far meant that we could probably have pulled a jet on our own. However we started as a team and we were going to finish it as a team, so we increased the 4.5 tonne challenge by adding a towing tractor to the equation. The additional 5.5 tonnes meant that we could easily move side by side and training with a tractor had much more versatility than dealing with the logistics of trying to squeeze our training in to the busy schedule of the famous display team.
We all picked up niggling injuries on the way and we were confronted with all weather conditions but they all seemed so insignificant knowing how lucky we were to be the ages we are and to each have 2 wonderful children and an amazing wife each to support us. It only seemed fitting that we attempted our challenge on the RAF Scampton Family day.
The day finally arrived and we were completely ready. We set up a military tent at the side of the runway and displayed photos of the Red Arrows and Macsen to attract people’s attention. So few people had heard of Dreams & Wishes until that day when we spread the word, then donations began pouring in as we shared Macsen’s story with others. Hundreds of people passed the stall and stopped to chat, all embracing the cause and sharing their deepest sympathy for Macsen’s family.
It seemed so ironic that as Macsen lost so much weight during his treatment, we all managed to put on in excess of 14 pounds of muscle each, in preparation! The total amount of bulk gained between the three man team was over 4 stone and the personal bests in the weights bay just kept on breaking.
We were scheduled to start the pull as soon as the Reds had shut-down following yet another wonderful home performance. As they took to the sky in their formation we began our preparations. The nervous energy between Chris and I was beginning to annoy Lee as he was extremely calm and focussed. We tried to share a laugh and a joke to ease the atmosphere but nothing seemed to work, we just needed to get out to the jet and pull it. The 15 minute warm up felt like 15 seconds as we then helped each other into our towing harnesses. As the pilots exited their perfectly arranged jets, we were summoned under the safety ropes towards the taxi way. When we looked back, thousands of eyes were watching us, waiting to see whether or not our hard work in the gym and on the fields was about to pay off. We glanced over at the hanger as the intimidating figure of the jet and tractor crept towards us, complete with 2 red arrows ground crew in the cockpit and cabin, the 10 tonne challenge was on.
The tractor ground to a halt in front of us, and we could clearly see the three strong points at the front just waiting to get attached. Lee was the first to fasten in, shortly followed by Chris before finally taking a short moment to remember why I was do this. With Macsen’s photo safely on board we had once last hug as Lee uttered those all inspiring words…..’Remember Macsen’.
The cheers from the crowd were quickly subdued as we lowered ourselves in to position. The tension from our guts quickly transferred into the ropes as we began to lean in for the initial pull. Once we all agreed we were ready, I gave the countdown 3, 2, 1….GO.
The straps pulled hard against our shoulders as we began to contract every muscle in our bodies. Within moments the pressure could be felt in our lower backs as we exerted everything to get the rig moving. Seconds later we took our first step and the crowd began to cheer. The wheels were rolling and it felt fantastic. The 10 metre markers seemed to just pass us by as we gathered momentum. The hard part was out of the way, it was now down to fitness and determination. We set ourselves a target of pulling the jet 100 metres and that marker passed by and we were still moving well. Despite the head wind and slight incline, we were going strong. We cleared the 100m and began to tire. I was able to ask Chris and Lee if they had much left in their legs. With mixed response, a decision was made to put in one last effort for Macsen and we managed an extra 30m before we stood up and the 10 tonne mass slowed up on the taxi way. The roar from the crowd was electrifying and as we waved to thank them for their wonderful support, we all identified our wives and children in the crowd and celebrated together.’
Tony Curtis, Dreams & Wishes’ Chairman, had this to say about Daz’s fundraising: “It is truly inspirational what Daz has done for the charity. None of the events he has taken part in have been for the faint-hearted and it has taken true courage from both Daz and his men to complete each one.
Macsen was a fantastic young boy and the fact that this has all been done in his honour is amazing. On behalf of everyone here at Dreams & Wishes, we want to say how proud we are of what Daz has acheieved and how grateful we are for how he has helped ensure our work here continues.”