Leaving a lads’ night out early to spend some time with his mum Karen Williams, was never an issue for football fanatic, Lee Thorpe.
He loved his glamorous mum to bits, and was proud to say he loved her company — no matter how much his friends would persuade him to stay for just one more post-match pint.
She was the most amazing mother I could ever wish for
It’s been just over 10 years since Karen died aged 44, following a short but courageous battle with breast cancer. Every year Lee, his partner Jodie, their son Max and family have a small gathering to celebrate her birthday and angelversary.
To mark how he’s missing her 10 years on, he wants to honour the life of his unforgettable mum by doing something a little bit out of the ordinary.
“She was the most amazing mother I could ever wish for,” says Lee, who is taking on a whirlwind challenge in her memory.
Footie fan Lee’s set himself a massive goal: to to visit all 92 England Premier League and Football League clubs in 92 hours, raising money for Manchester’s Christie Hospital, which took such good care of Karen while she was ill.
The hospital holds a special place in Lee’s heart because it also cared for his late nan through terminal cancer. The Christie specialises in radiology, chemotherapy and surgery, including for rarer forms of of the disease.
Dressed up and ready-to-go: Lee's prom 2003
Single mum Karen worked hard to ensure her kids Lee, 31, Natalie, 33, and Sophie, 21, didn’t want for anything when they were growing up. And their home in Manchester was filled with warmth and happiness.
“Mum worked long hours, every day, to ensure we had a holiday every year, and clothes on our backs,” explains Lee, who is an electrician.
“Even though she was a single parent, she always tried her best for us.”
Karen had long, busy days as the manager of a makeup company. It made the family twice as excited about forthcoming holidays, when they’d to spend more time with their mum – and she’d usually have something special planned, up her sleeve.
She always tried her best for us
“One of my ultimate favourite holidays was when we went to Florida in 2001,” smiles Lee.
“We had such fun together seeing all the different sights. I remember feeling so unbelievably lucky to be there, with Mum. She was just a beautiful person, inside and out.”
Karen was diagnosed with cancer in June 2007, only three short months before she died.
Seeing his mum suffer was incredibly difficult for Lee. But, just as she’d always put her kids first, Karen rarely let on how much pain she was in.
That’s why Lee’s still so incredibly grateful to the care and support of The Christie. In very difficult circumstances when Karen was dying, they helped her feel at peace and comfortable.
“My mum spoke so highly of the staff at The Christie. They made her feel so relaxed through her toughest of days,” he reflects Lee, adding that one of his greatest sadnesses is she never got to meet his little boy, Max, whom she’d have adored.
“Mum was looking forward to having grandchildren. My son never got to meet her, but has a photograph of her in his bedroom.
“He kisses it every night before he goes to bed.”
Lee wishes his mum was around to meet his son, Max
Lee’s kicking off his challenge to visit 92 football grounds in 92 hours for Karen and The Christie, on April 23.
“I read about other football fans attempting it, and always wanted to give it a go,” he smiles.
“I knew this would be the perfect opportunity to raise money for The Christie too.”
Manchester United fan Lee’s best mates, Matthew Thomson, 31, and Chris Gannon, 31, are also taking part in the challenge – beginning at – where else? – the Red Devils’ home ground, Old Trafford.
Lee, right, with best bud, Matt
They’ll also be stopping by at Plymouth, Carlisle and ending their mission off at Gigg Lane Stadium in Bury, which is close to where Lee lives.
They’ll be travelling by car in a 2,300 mile journey, that they’ve carefully mapped out in the hope they’ll complete it within 92 hours – under four days.
I don't think Mum will be surprised that I'm doing a challenge related to sport
The lads are greatly looking forward to it, and are most excited about stopping at Nottingham Forest Ground and Hillsborough — stadiums which Lee has never visited before, despite attending Manchester United away fixtures around the country.
Lee and his pals have already raised £1310 for The Christie ahead of their challenge and have set up a Just Giving page for donations.
Along the way, Lee hopes to collect memorabilia from each club they visit, in the hope that they can make up a unique collection to auction off, for The Christie.
They’ll be posting updates about their challenge as they make their way – and were really excited when stand up comedian, Jason Manford who’s from Salford, retweeted about their mission for The Christie.
“Mum knew how crazy I was about football so I don’t think she’ll be surprised that I’m doing a challenge related to sport,” laughs Lee.
“I’m doing it all to keep my her lovely memory alive. I know she’ll be proud of me for what I’m doing.”
- Click here to donate to Lee’s 92-in-92 challenge