Pembrokeshire-born former Welsh Rugby Union director Craig Maxwell is calling on the people of Wales to join him in walking the Wales Coast Path in a bid to raise £1 million for cancer research and treatment.
With the aim of raising £1 million for the Maxwell Family Genomics Fund, a fund as part of Velindre Cancer Centre, the cancer fundraiser from Penarth has launched his latest challenge to kick off 2024.
Mr Maxwell is hoping to attract 30 people each day of the 26-day Wales Coast Path challenge. 26 days has been chosen to mirror the QuicDNA project's goal of reducing diagnosis time.
780 miles of the Welsh coastal path will be walked, representing the 78 days it took him to receive his diagnosis from the point of finding his tumour, and the rest will be cycled.
A rugby match ball will be relayed the entire distance of the challenge, symbolising Wales’ collective fight against cancer and it will culminate at the national stadium of Wales, the Principality Stadium, on March 10 for the Wales vs. France Guinness Six Nations match, where Craig Maxwell, accompanied by his children, Isla and Zach, will carry the match ball onto the pitch.
Acknowledging the unpredictable nature of his ongoing treatments, Craig will be joined by a different Welsh celebrity every day of the walk, so that regardless of his ability to walk, he will have a representative to take on the challenge. Celebrities signed up to take part so far include TV presenter Gethin Jones and a number of former rugby players including Sam Warburton, Jamie Roberts, Josh Navidi and Velindre ambassador Jonathan ‘Jiffy’ Davies.
Each day of walking offers 30 spaces, inviting participants to raise £500 for the fund and take on the challenge of 26 miles a day through breathtaking Welsh countryside.
Mr Maxwell said: “We are embarking on a monumental challenge to symbolise hope, resilience, and unity, and raise over £1 million for the research and development of new and innovate cancer testing and treatments in Wales. Having surpassed our initial fundraising goals of £300,000 for QuicDNA, we really hope people will join us in taking on the Wales Coast Path Challenge. It will be our most ambitious journey yet as we strive to create a community united against cancer across the length and breadth of Wales.
“Cancer has touched our lives, challenged our resilience, but it will not define our future. This event will see people from all over Wales stand united, not just as individuals but as a formidable force against cancer.”
The former chief commercial officer of Six Nations Rugby and commercial director of the Welsh Rugby Union was just 40 when he was diagnosed with incurable and inoperable EGFR lung and bone cancer in September 2022.
In the face of adversity, having told he had 10-18 months to live, Craig Maxwell has thrown himself into raising hundreds of thousands of pounds to help others detect cancer earlier.
Over the last year, he has run the London Marathon, taken part in CARTEN, cycled 320 miles from Cardiff to Paris, cycled over 420 miles from Paris to Bordeaux and taken on the Welsh 3000s – climbing over 10 mountains, all over 3,000ft in 24 hours. Earlier this year, he was crowned Cycling Plus’ Rider of the Year for his efforts.
A patient representative of the QuicDNA steering group, Maxwell has also supported the oncology team at Velindre and All Wales Genomics to introduce a new test for lung cancer patients. The QuicDNA pilot project, now in place, will look to dramatically reduce the time lung cancer is diagnosed in Wales.
His story has touched the hearts of many, rallying support that surpassed all expectations. His efforts to date have seen him raise £430,000 to support the QuicDNA project, which aims to shorten the time it takes to diagnose lung cancer in patients in Wales.
With a further £500,000 donated by The Moondance Foundation, set up by Henry and Diane Engelhardt, Maxwell is now launching his own charity fund.
The Maxwell Family Genomics Fund aims to support and advance cancer research, particularly in the field of genomics, to enhance diagnosis and treatment in Wales.
Administered and supported by Velindre, with support from the Moondance Foundation and All Wales Genomics, the fund will aim to make a lasting difference in the lives of cancer patients and their families in Wales.
Craig added: “I’m proud to launch the Maxwell Family Genomics Fund, where hope, courage, and community converge in the fight against cancer in Wales. This is the start of my family and friends creating a legacy and showing my children that even at the worst time possible, you can still rise up and be positive and make a difference.”
To find out more about the Wales Coast Path Challenge and to sign up, visit maxwell.foundation