An RAF serviceman diagnosed with inoperable cancer has raised more than £22,000 for charity thanks to his inspirational fight to stay fit.
Former warrant officer Gary Banford, who recently retired from RAF Lossiemouth and lives in Forres, was told he had stage four oesophageal cancer in July.
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 shortly after his devastating diagnosis.
However, determined to make the most of his remaining time, he has since raised £22,000 and counting for Abbie’s Sparkle Foundation, a charity set up by Elgin youngster Abbie Main before her death from cancer in December 2017.
“One of the many tips my oncologist gave me after the diagnosis was to stay fit,” he said.
“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. Mr Banford soon adjusted that goal to £25,000.
Supported by wife Selina, a police officer, and children Ben, 15, and Lexie, 12, both pupils at Forres Academy, he is continuing his courses of chemotherapy treatment and a medical trial at Aberdeen Royal Infirmary.
Meanwhile, his ambition to spread the word about “functional fitness and teaching” has taken off with friends around the UK and abroad including Australia, where the Banfords lived during his five-year posting there, raising money for Abbie’s Sparkle with sponsored sporting challenges.
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: “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.”
You can help Gary’s Fight Against Cancer by making a donation online.