West Bromwich fundraiser Dave, who recently completed his 1,000 mile Top 2 Toe challenge from John O’Groats to Lands End, was presented with an Honorary Degree of Doctor of Letters.
Dave received the award from the School of Sport, Performing Arts and Leisure in recognition of his inspirational approach to, and considerable contribution towards, charitable causes.
At the ceremony today (Friday, 9 September), Dave described hearing the news that he would receive an honorary award from the University as “mind-blowing”.
He said: “To be standing on this stage amongst a wonderful crowd of people at this graduation awards presentation is an absolute honour. I am pleased and proud, and to be in receipt of such an award is an absolute privilege.
“I would like to finish by saying I feel very privileged and have two simple but sincere words – thank you.”
For his latest challenge, Dave ran and cycled from John O’Groats to Lands End over 10 days averaging 75 miles each day, including running a marathon and cycling to the next destination. He is raising funds for Macmillan Cancer Support, and the current total stands at £52,569.92.
At age 10, Dave Heeley was diagnosed with an eye complaint called Retinitas Pigmentosa, which meant he was going blind. At 17, despite his career in the army shattered and all his friends taking driving tests, Dave decided to take a positive route. Regardless of his sight problem, he’s had a varied working career, mainly office bound, other than his short stint on a fork lift truck, he admits he wasn’t always honest about his sight problem, he had his own company for around seven years, distributing suspended ceilings, partitions, dry lining and joinery, he loved the buying and selling but with bad luck, bad debt and bad eye sight, all good things come to an end'
Enrolling at Queen Alexandra College for the Blind, he achieved skills in Braille, computers, carpentry and wood turning.
Despite his eyesight continually declining, Dave’s life changed overnight when he was introduced to Peter, his first Guide Dog. With renewed confidence, Dave has had a go at skiing, water skiing, horse riding, cliff jumping, abseiling, and driving motor bikes and even a tank.
Competing in many marathons (including Ten consecutive London), in 2008 Dave also completed The Ultimate Challenge - 7 marathons in 7 days on 7 continents - the first and only blind person in the world to achieve this. It was The Challenge that launched Dave’s new career as a motivational speaker.
Dave is the Physical Activities Champion for Sandwell Council, Ambassador for the Birmingham Half Marathon, been appointed to the board of Governors at the Queen Alexandra College, Patron of a Charity Ideal for All and is an Ambassador of West Bromwich Albion football club. In 2008 Dave (and his running guide) won the Outstanding Sporting Achievement award at the BBC Midlands Sports Awards and more recently was presented the “Contribution to the Community” West Bromwich Albion players award. In recognition of Dave’s charity work he has been invited to functions at Buckingham Palace and the House of Lords.
2011 saw Dave complete his latest challenge, Top2Toe, in aid of Macmillan cancer support. To sponsor Dave, visit http://www.justgiving.com/blinddavestop2toe
Dave is married with three daughters and has a guide dog called Wicksie.
Dave will also receive his certificate from the University in Braille. The University’s graduation ceremonies are being held at Wolverhampton Grand Theatre from Thursday, 1 September to Friday 9 September 2011.
Other pictures are available on request please contact Vickie Warren or Emma Pugh in the Media Relations Office on 01902 322736 or 01902 322003.