Harry Townsend set up the Myfanwy Townsend Melanoma Research Fund in 1999 after his wife died of Melanoma. Since then he has dedicated his waking hours to raising awareness and much money as possible to help eradicate melanoma. At 76 Harry has still has the same drive and passion for the charity as he did over 14 years ago (although he may say that his body is slowing just slightly!)
Although Harry started his campaign by setting himself extreme challenges he now is as busy (and in demand) as ever raising awareness and donations by speaking at charity gatherings, popping up at events around the county, come rain or sun. If there is money to be raised and people to be educated, rest assured, Harry will be there.
On behalf of the charity, Harry has jetted off around the world to embark on some of the toughest physical challenges out there, including climbing Kilimanjaro, walking the Pilgrim Trail, completing the grueling Marathon de Sables…and the list goes on.
The Grand Canyon
Harry tackled the Grand Canyon not once, but twice. Firstly as a leisure pursuit and secondly in 2002 he crossed it rim to rim non-stop with the entire front row of Wingspan Rugby Club (he was their coach at the time) to raise funds for the charity.
Says Harry; “It was a tough challenge, 24 miles in total with a 13,000ft climb and descent at an overall 1 in 9 gradient in temperatures often far in excess of 100F in one of the harshest areas of the world. You descend from the North Rim at 9,000ft to the Colorado River at 2,000ft, where the temperature ranges from 100F to 130F. The climb through ‘The Furnace’ (even hotter) leads to the forty switchbacks of Jacob’s Ladder: near the South Rim, at 8,000ft, the trail ascends more than 1,200ft in a mile.”
Harry, who was a keen rugby player and has always been active says; “I’ve known no other life and always like to get outside. When it comes activities doing something that challenges me is really my cup of tea. When it comes to fundraising, they do say work to your talents don’t they?”
In 2004 Harry decided to walk 800 miles in 68 days, from one end of the North Island of New Zealand to the other with a wheelbarrow named George, collecting donations for the fight against melanoma. He was joined by Mark Habgood who swung into action to help organise things, and Harry was supported along the way by Rotary Clubs, Lions Clubs and rugby clubs.
Mark and Harry made contact with the Waitemata District Health Board where research and treatment into melanoma was underway. With an interested group of clinicians and business people, it was agreed to found a charity. From a generous donation of funds raised during Harry Townsend’s walk down the length of the North Island, the Melanoma Foundation of New Zealand was established to help those affected by melanoma.
Whatever it Takes
Apart from tackling uninhabitable terrains, Harry has raised funds for the charity in many, many other ways over the years. Including producing a DVDs for schools, which paid for a cancer nurse at Queen Victoria Hospital. Funding and manning the ‘Mole Patrol, mobile mole awareness clinics in the West Country with Sun Safe in Cornwall. Sun Hat Days with local schools, selling Christmas Cards, organising sunflower competitions at Haskins, selling UV bracelets and branded bands and has teamed up with many like minded people and organisations to help them raise funds for their own Melanoma charities. The list goes on…
Harry has also written two books ‘The Slowest Pilgrim’ and ‘Harry the Wheelbarrow Man’ (published by Dreamtime Publications) detailing his trek across New Zealand. Talking of his achievements with the charity, Harry remains modest and said he just wants to raise money and awareness.”We get great support from everyone. That’s why I’m doing it. There’s no known cure, that’s what this is all about.
We salute you Harry.