IT was a moment Ray Matthews could only dream of as he pounded the streets of Rotherham and France.
For 75 days, the inspirational runner completed a marathon every day to celebrate his 75th birthday.
He set off on his challenge with one aim - to raise enough money for specialist playground facilities and a woodland trail at Newman School.
And on Tuesday, 364 days after Ray finished his mammoth challenge in the school’s grounds, the grandad-of-three’s dream became a reality when youngsters were able to try out the trail for the first time.
Ray, of Maltby, said: “It’s hard to put into words.
“Today is just a dream come true and what’s been great about it is that I really didn’t think it was ever going to happen.
“Running is what I do, marathons are what I do - that was the easy part.
“The hard bit was raising the money to make this happen.”
Ray (76) raised more than £35,000 of his £75,000 target and, after construction firms Fortem and Eurovia and Rotherham Sitwell Rotary Club agreed to complete the £40,000 woodland trail free of charge, work was carried out over the summer break.
The Mayor of Rotherham, Cllr Eve Rose Keenan, cut the ribbon to the trail before leading the children through the new wheelchair-friendly experience.
“The best part of all of these last two years was today and seeing the enjoyment on the kids’ faces when they were on the trail,” he said.
“But I wouldn’t have been able to do it without the help of everyone. This has been a massive team event.
“It’s the culmination of everything. So many people have put their heart and soul into this.”
Paul Silvester, who only started as head teacher at Newman School earlier this month, said he could not thank Ray enough for his efforts.
“It’s fantastic to walk into a school that’s already part of the community,” he said.
“Ray has put the young people at the heart of this and I think that’s really important.
“The path really needed some thought because without it our young people could not make use of the fantastic environment we have got.”
Andrew Bates, Rotary Club president, said the group had wanted to help after reading he had not reached his £75,000 target in the Advertiser.
Around 15 members gave up their time to help with the construction of the path.
“I think this is the biggest project in the history of our club and we have been going for 30 years,” Mr Bates said.
“It’s very much in the spirit of Rotary as well.
“It’s not about who can pull money out of their pockets - it’s about everyone coming together.”
Millie Bell (17), chairperson of Newman School’s student council, said the path would make “a huge difference”.
“It’s really good because the children in wheelchairs will be able to access the woodland,” she said.
“I want to say thank you to Ray because he has done a really good thing for the kids.”
Works are also continuing to build the playground, which will include an outdoor classroom, slide and specialist roundabout, Ray said.
The Advertiser continues to lobby the Cabinet Office to get Ray knighted for his amazing achievement as part of our Arise Sir Ray campaign.
Email email@example.com or call him on 01709 768162 if you would like to show your support.
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