Sunderland fan puts differences aside to help young Newcastle supporter

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A BLACK Cats fan is crossing the derby divide to help out a young Newcastle supporter as he bids to walk unaided for the first time.

Born-and-bred Sunderland man Gary Pearson is taking on the Great North Run and the Yorkshire Tough Mudder endurance event – in the space of just eight days.

Gary is hoping to raise significant funds for eight-year-old Magpies supporter Joseph Hill, of Wakefield in West Yorkshire, who has a form of cerebral palsy which means he needs a walking frame to get around.

Once the operation is carried out the plucky youngster will then need personal physiotherapy to help him continue his progress, something which Gary is hoping to help out with by fund-raising for him.

HSBC worker Gary is set to take part in the half marathon on Sunday, September 15, wearing his beloved red and white stripes.

Dad-of-three Gary, 46, who was born in Silksworth but now lives in Wakefield, said: “Joe’s a really canny lad and his family and friends have already done an amazing job in raising enough money so that he can get the operation done privately, hopefully in the next two months.

“But the operation is only part of the hard work that Joe will have to endure if he is going be able to walk and run as his school friends can.

“We are now looking at ways to fund the extensive physiotherapy and personal support Joe will need to give the operation the best possible chance of success.”

Before taking on the 13.1 mile Great North Run on September 15, Gary is set to tackle the daunting Tough Mudder challenge this weekend, where ‘The Arctic Enema’, underwater tunnels, the ‘Electric Eel’ challenge and fire-walking obstacles await.

Organisers say only three-quarters of entrants manage to complete every challenge.

“There’s nothing I think I can do to prepare properly for it,” said Gary, whose grandad Billy used to be landlord of The Wavendon pub in Sunderland until the mid-1970s.

“I’m sure it will be a real eye-opener and I’d imagine it will be a lot tougher to do than the Great North Run.

“I’ve set myself a minimum target of £500 and HSBC say they will match it so that should double the total.”

To donate to Gary’s fund-raising, go to www.charitychoice.co.uk/fundraiser/garypearson-2013.