A FORMER professional footballer from Melksham has so far raised more than £6,000 to support children and young adults with cancer across the UK in memory of a young man who died from the disease.

Matthew Bound played for Southampton, Swansea, Oxford and Hull during his professional footballing career.

Now he’s undergoing his toughest running challenge to date, called ‘thebeastforben’, to raise money for the Ben Saunders Foundation, now a registered charity.

The Foundation was launched by Ben Saunders, 18, a promising young footballer who played for Bath City FC Academy, Oldland Abbotonians FC and Somerset, who died in August.

Ben was diagnosed with a rare form of cancer sarcoma attached to his heart which he had been fighting since October 2019.

It spread into his lungs and he faced many challenges before he died, including two major open heart surgeries and six rounds of very intense chemotherapy.

Mr Bound, 48, who lives near Swansea, said: “Ben was only 18 and a promising footballer with the Bath City Academy. He had his whole life ahead of him.

“Shortly before he passed away Ben made the decision to do something to help other children and young adults who were/are experiencing a similar illness as him.

“He set up the www.bensaundersfoundation.org to help facilitate this and, to date, his friends, family and people from the sporting world have all helped raise over £70,000.

“Thebeastforben lasts for the month of November and requires me to run the same amount of miles as per the day of the month that I am on: one mile on the 1st, two miles on the 2nd and so on.

“This all sounds quite nice until I reach the second week at which point fatigue will start to kick in. The final 10 days is brutal with 20-plus miles every day.

“The last week requires me to run a total of 189 miles and a total of 465 in the month.

“So far, it’s going surprisingly well. Obviously, the runs are getting longer but I will keep trying to do them in one go until my body gives me a warning shot.”

Mr Bound, who started playing football with Avon Boys in Melksham, has already raised £6,090 after smashing through his £6,000 target for the fundraising appeal.

He added: “Please help me to support other teenagers like Ben by raising the awareness of his Foundation to continue his legacy now that he has gone.

“If you can spare a few pounds along the way it will be put to the best use possible - helping children and young adults with cancer.”

Ben’s dad, Tom Saunders, said: “Matthew was a good friend of mine over 30 years ago when our football careers went in different directions.

“When he contacted me with his proposal and his reasons for supporting Ben it was very emotional for all of my family."

“To even attempt what Matt is doing is unbelievable and we are both humbled and very grateful for his efforts. I will never forget playing with Matt as he was brilliant but as far as I’m concerned he is a hero."

“Everyone thinks their children are special but Ben was beautiful both inside and out and we miss him more every single day.

“The football world has really got behind the charity with many premier league players donating their shirts and gloves.

“Ben received messages from both Roberto Carlos and Trent Alexander-Arnold whilst undergoing chemotherapy treatment and Kevin Keegan has also phoned this week to offer his support.”

So far, the Foundation has raised £70,000 in less than three months and has bought a holiday home, called Ben’s Retreat, at South Cerney near Cirencester in the Cotswolds, to enable young cancer sufferers to spend valuable time with their families.To donate, go to https://www.justgiving.com/crowdfunding/the-beast-for-ben

To find out more about the Ben Saunders Foundation, visit www.bensaundersfoundation.org