The cast of Hollyoaks will take on ex-football pros at a star-studded charity match in aid of blood cancer charity Myeloma UK next Saturday.
The match will see Hollyoaks actors Ashley Taylor Dawson, Jamie Lomas, Nick Pickard, Matt Milburn, Rishi Nair, Matthew James-Bailey, Frank Kauer, Ijaz Rana, Charlie Behan, Omar Malik and Jonas Khan go head-to-head with ex-pros including Spurs’ own Michael Brown, Wigan’s Gary Caldwell, The Real Housewives of Cheshire’s Joe Sealey and Macclesfield FC owner Rob Smethurst.
The all-star fundraiser is the brainchild of football fan John Birtwistle whose friend of 20 years, Simon Cowlard, was diagnosed with myeloma back in February, an incurable blood cancer that claims the lives of 3,000 people in the UK each year.
John, a father-of-two, from Wilmslow, said: “Simon is a great friend of mine – we used to work together and I’ve known him for over 20 years. When I found out he unfortunately had myeloma, I wanted to do something to take his mind off it, do something positive and help the cause. Obviously, it’s affected everyone around Simon – it’s been upsetting for me too.”
“Macclesfield FC have been brilliant” added the 54-year-old. “They’ve taken the match under their wing. We have celebrities and ex-football players involved.
“We’ve had a lot of support. It’s going to be a great day for everyone and for Simon.”
Ashley Taylor Dawson, who plays Darren Osborne in Hollyoaks, said: “John rang me a few months ago and told me what was going on. We have a football team at Hollyoaks so we got the lads involved to do what they do best.
“With filming and people being up and down the country, you don’t always know where you’re going to be, so we weren’t sure who was going to be able to do it, but the lads came through.
“Win or lose there will be a bit of competitiveness on the day. I’m looking forward to it – it’s for a good cause. Cancer is devastating, the more awareness we can raise the better.”
Macclesfield FC owner Rob Smethurst added: “We’re a Community Club, that’s why we bought it, so we’ve offered the facility free of charge for a great cause that’s close to their hearts.
“Everyone is getting involved. I can’t wait to play. It will be great fun. We’ve sold over 200 tickets already, so we’ll have a bit of an audience. We’ll do a bit of a push later this week to get to 300. Anything we can do to help.”
A keen football fan and youth coach himself, Simon Cowlard had been experiencing back and chest pains for a few weeks when, one day, after a walk with his family, his legs started to go numb.
He was rushed to A&E where a scan revealed a tumour was pressing down on his spine. He was eventually diagnosed with the incurable blood cancer myeloma.
Simon was just 46 years old.
“John is a top guy,” said Simon, who has a ten-year-old son.
“When John found out that I was in hospital he offered to come down from Manchester to see if I was OK. The way this game has come about has just been incredible, especially with Macclesfield FC, the stars and the footballers coming on board. It’s quite humbling.
“It’s for a great cause. I hope we can help raise money for Myeloma UK and raise more awareness of myeloma.”
Myeloma affects 24,000 people in the UK at any one time.
Despite being the third most common type of blood cancer, myeloma is especially difficult to diagnose as symptoms, chief among them pain, easily broken bones, fatigue and recurring infection, are often linked to general ageing or minor conditions.
1 in 4 patients wait more than 10 months for a diagnosis. These are some of the longest delays of any cancer in the UK.
“I had never heard of myeloma,” added Simon, who lives in Benson, Oxfordshire.
“Even now it’s still all relatively new to me and my family. Sometimes it feels like it’s happening to somebody else and I’m on the outside looking in. It took a while to get my head around it and understand what myeloma is.” Simon added,
“Myeloma is a cancer they do not have a cure for at present but there are treatments. Anything we can do to raise money will help people in my situation.
“It gets us closer to a cure. Science and medications are changing and improving all the time. If it can give me the slimmest of chances of living longer, then that’s my motivation. I am focused on coming out the other side stronger and with the myeloma totally under control.”
Kick-off is at 15:00 at Macclesfield FC’s Leasing.com Stadium on Saturday July 2.
You can book tickets for the game HERE.
To make a donation to Myeloma UK please follow the link HERE.