An RAF serviceman has launched a fundraising fitness challenge to remain as healthy as possible after being diagnosed with inoperable cancer.
Warrant officer Gary Banford, who works at RAF Lossiemouth and lives in Forres, was told he had stage four oesophageal cancer about a month ago.
The 50-year-old said serving at the Moray airbase was his “dream job” but took what he knew would be his final flight on a Poseidon plane recently.
Mr Banford said the flight, which took place just before he started treatment, was “perfect”.
Determined to make the most of his remaining time, he has since raised almost £4,000 and counting for Abbie’s Sparkle Foundation, a charity set up by Elgin youngster Abbie Main before her death from cancer in December 2017.
After receiving the devastating news from his doctor, the fitness fan vowed to stay as mentally and physically active as possible.
He said: “One of the many tips my oncologist gave me was to stay fit.
“I told him I do CrossFit, and he just rolled his eyes. That day I decided I would stay as fit as I possibly could and that I would drag my family, friends and people who had never met me on this journey with me.”
And so began a series of live-streamed fitness challenges shared with friends and followers on Facebook.
Convincing pals to complete 50 reps of his chosen daily exercise, Mr Banford vowed to get people moving as they in turn helped him mentally cope with his condition.
An online fundraising page was launched with the goal of raising £2,000 by Christmas day, and smashed its target in just 48 hours.
Supported by wife Selina, a police officer, and children Ben, 15, and Lexie, 12, both pupils at Forres Academy, he is now one week into a course of chemotherapy treatment and a medical trial at Aberdeen Royal Infirmary.
Meanwhile his ambition to spread the word about “functional fitness and teaching” that both his 75-year-old mum and the fittest of his rugby pals could get involved with has taken off.
Military rugby clubs have joined the challenge, with RAF Lossiemouth RFC even sponsoring Abbie’s Sparkle for the season.
And in Australia, where the Banfords lived during his five-year posting there, hundreds of CrossFit fans have taken part in sponsored classes with him in mind.
“Lots of good people are doing lots of good things and it’s fantastic,” Mr Banford added.
“I’m totally blown away to think there’s hundreds of people in a centre in Australia doing CrossFit in aid of a small Moray charity.”
No stranger to fundraising feats, Mr Banford cycled across the south of Australia wearing a kilt in 2016 to collect £4,500 for Macmillan after his father died from the same cancer as he is battling.
He added: “It’s really hard, when you are the recipient of generosity, to put into words what it actually means. It’s breathtaking.
“I’d like to thank everybody getting involved with my fitness challenge and supporting Abbie’s Sparkle, my work, friends and family. My life works through fitness and I’m thankful for people understanding what I’m doing this for.”