There were tears of emotion as a new dad with inoperable cancer hugged his brother who had just completed a fundraising walk across Wales.
Ceri Dawson, 28, from Coedpoeth, who was given the heart-breaking diagnosis just days before the birth of his first child and his fourth wedding anniversary, went to Prestatyn to meet his sibling, Ashley, 26, when he reached the end of Offa’s Dyke.
There, too, were Ceri’s wife, Catrin, 26, and their little baby boy, Cai James Dawson, who’s now a fortnight old, along with family and friends.
Ashley Dawson, 26, the business and sustainability manager at the Village Bakery, and his friend, Wrexham artist, Liam Stokes-Massey, 30, completed the 182 mile trek to raise money for Ceri, also known as Cez, and his family and Christie Hospital in Manchester where he’s being treated.
They were joined for half of the route by their friend Tom Breeze, 27, from Wrexham.
Fighting back tears Ashley says he and Liam had managed to average around 20 miles a day for the full 10 days but every step had been worth it as they had smashed through the £20,000 barrier in funds raised.
He said: “Obviously we are all devastated by Cez’s diagnosis. It’s clearly never a good time to be told you have cancer but right before the birth of your first child and your wedding anniversary makes it even harder to take.
“Cez wanted to do the walk with us but there was no way he could possibly have managed it. He then said he’d try and join us for the last day so we could walk into Prestatyn together but he’s going through another round of chemo and I had to tell him no way, he’s simply too weak.
“It’s been tough and in a sense I think both Liam and I feel a bit down now it’s over, having that target to walk each and every day just takes your mind off things.
“Now it’s over, although I’m glad to see everyone especially Cez, Catrin and Cai, it feels a bit strange knowing it’s done and dusted and I’m going to miss talking to Liam for 12 hours a day!”
An emotional Ceri, who was due to qualify as a PE teacher just before his diagnosis, hugged his brother before saying: “These are two amazing people. I can’t believe what my brother and Liam have done for me and my family and Christie’s Hospital in Manchester where I’m being treated.
“They really are heroes. As much as I would have loved to join them, especially for the last day, there was just no way. I’m going through my third chemo session and woke up this morning feeling a bit weak and really sick.
“I just can’t believe what Ashley and Liam have done. It’s amazing and the support they have had from family, friends and work colleagues is just amazing. I really can’t thank them enough.”
Liam, who got to know Cez after they worked at a supermarket together as teenagers, said: “We started out from Sedbury Cliffs, near Chepstow and just kept walking. It was tough at first as we were carrying backpacks that weighed about 45 kilos each.
“We were camping every night so it was getting really tiring. Then Ashley’s girlfriend’s mum and step dad met us each morning and took the back packs for us and met up with us each night. That made it so much easier.”
He added: “We just walked for 12 hours each and every day and talked. It’s amazing what you can find to talk about; I don’t think we left any subject alone. Some of it was just nonsense and some of it quite deep.”
Ashley added: “I’ve walked up Snowdon loads of times but this was much, much harder and somehow all up hill. I’ve never know inclines like it. And it was great to have so many friends join us and walk with us on the last day.
“Having my girlfriend, Amy Wells’, parents meet up with us and take care of our back packs was a massive help. Cathy Wells and Rob Cartwright were fantastic and kept us going.
“They even managed to find us a B&B in Welshpool called Long Mountain. The proprietors, Evelyn and Mike, refused to charge us when they heard what we what we were doing and why. They even got up at 5am to cook us a massive full English, that really set us up for the day!”
Portrait artist Liam, who displays his work at the Undegun Community Art Gallery in Wrexham, added: “We are glad it’s over and we are both so pleased to have raised so much, thanks to family, friends and work colleagues, for Cez, his family and Christie’s.
“The reception we have had from family and friends and everyone here at the finishing line has been wonderful and to see Cez and his brother hugging each other just drives it home what we did it for and that the pain was worth it.”
Ashley and Ceri’s proud grandparents, Tony and Dilys Hales were on hand to celebrate with their grandsons and Liam and Tony was quick to point out how proud he was of them all.
He said: “Pride is too small a word. What a wonderful thing Ashley and Liam have done in support of Ashley’s brother and Liam’s mate. It’s incredible and I know how much it means to Ceri and Catrin.
“They deserve to put their feet up and have a few celebratory beers and why not?”
Robin Jones, the managing director of the Village Bakery where colleagues at their bakeries in Wrexham and Minera, held a fundraising pyjama party, said: “We are all very proud of Ashley because of the courageous way he has responded to the news about Ceri.
“Our thoughts, best wishes and love are with Ceri and his family at this difficult time.”