A Nottingham Forest season ticket holder whose child was stillborn is walking from Wales to the City Ground to commemorate what would have been his son’s 10th birthday.
Andrew Johnson left his home village of Llanwddyn on 9 September to start the 12-day walk to Nottingham in memory of Fletcher, who was born sleeping on 21 September 2009 at 39 weeks.
Nottingham-based family business UK Meds has donated £1,200 to pay for Andrew’s food and accommodation along the 165-mile route. UK Meds, which is the sponsor of Nottingham Forest’s new season and back of shirt and training wear, was keen to support Andrew after hearing his story.
Fifty-year-old Andrew, who became a Reds’ supporter in 1975 after being introduced by his friend, said: “Fletcher’s death was completely unexpected as he was perfectly healthy. Me and my wife Colleen were sitting in the living room counting his kicks and then, three hours later, he was gone and we were told Colleen would have to give birth to our son sleeping.
“It has been, and continues to be, really difficult to process what has happened. Fletcher’s death has left a massive hole in our family – it’s hard to put it into words. But we know he is with us and we always make sure he’s in our plans and remembered by his family.
“I’ve always wanted to do something in memory of Fletcher and, seeing as I turned 50 this March and Fletcher would’ve been 10, it seemed fitting to mark the two milestone birthdays. Fletcher would have loved Llanwddyn and I really hope he’d have shared my passion for Forest too, so it made sense for the two places to be the start and end points.”
Andrew – who runs the Dafarn Newydd Stores, Takeaway and Fuel Station – will be watching Forest take on Barnsley at the City Ground once he arrives in Nottingham, which falls on Fletcher’s birth date. He added: “It will be a nice way to end the personal pilgrimage and for me to say to Fletcher, ‘son, we made it’.”
Andrew plans to average 14 miles a day and has been preparing for the journey for the past year by walking 15 miles while carrying a rucksack and wearing four days’ worth of clothes. The money raised by the walk will be donated to Abigail’s Footsteps, which raises awareness of stillbirth in the UK, and Llanwddyn Community Centre.
He said: “I’ll be using the UK canal network as part of the walk from a safety point of view as it’s a solo venture. I have set a target of raising £3,652 as this will be how many days I’d have spent without Fletcher by the time his birthday arrives.
“It all links up nicely – Abigail’s Footsteps was set up in memory of Abigail Ward, who also would’ve been celebrating her 10th birthday this year, and then there’s our local community centre, which Fletcher would’ve attended for nursery up until the age of five.”
Andrew, who also has two daughters aged six and eight, added: “I’m blown away by the support we’ve received. I had the idea for the walk but it meant taking time off work and, of course, paying to stay over in villages, which isn’t cheap. UK Meds paying for my accommodation and food has really taken the pressure off financially. I couldn’t be more grateful.”
Joe Soiza – who founded UK Meds, a leading online pharmacy, three years ago – is also a lifelong Forest fan. He will be walking the last leg of the journey with Andrew as he arrives in Nottingham. He said: “When Andrew contacted us and told us Fletcher’s story, we knew we wanted to get involved and support him on his journey from Wales to Nottingham.
“It’s hard to imagine what the Johnson family have been through, but the walk is such a thoughtful way for Andrew to commemorate his son and spend time reliving his memory. I hope our donation takes the pressure off the challenge financially, and I look forward to meeting Andrew when he arrives in Nottingham.”
To sponsor Andrew Johnson and donate to Abigail’s Footsteps, please visit uk.virginmoneygiving.com/FletcherMemorialWalk2019.