A fundraising group walked, ran and cycled more than 9,000 miles in tribute to a police dog handler who died from heart disease.

Gavin White, from Basingstoke, wanted to pay tribute to his brother, Russ, who died in April 2021 from hypertensive and ischaemic heart disease at the age of just 48.

Russ joined Hampshire Police in 1992 and worked in Southampton as a PC and as a dog handler, before retiring in 2019.

Gavin organised the ‘You’ll Never Walk Alone’ virtual challenge and led a group of 40 friends, family and colleagues – plus around 50 other people who signed up on tracking app Strava.

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Gavin said: “I wanted to do something special for Russ and I’d recently finished a virtual Lands End to John O’Groats so I had the walking bug.

“Russ was a huge fan of Liverpool FC so I decided to plan a route walking to all of the locations where Liverpool had won the European Cup - a journey of 4,887 miles starting at Anfield and finishing in Istanbul, where Liverpool won the Champion’s League in 2005 – as well as taking in some of his favourite places.

“We wanted to raise money for his favourite charities so decided to aim for £1,678 – Russ's police number – and chose three charities to support, including the Thin Blue Paw Foundation.

“This journey was my way of honouring a truly remarkable man who was taken far too young.

The group started the challenge on 3 May 2021 (aiming to complete it the following year on Russ’s 50th birthday) and participants clocked up miles through walking, running and cycling around their own local area, contributing to the overall 4,887-mile target.

The mileage would represent the route from Liverpool to Southampton – where Russ had worked – to Wembley (1977/1978 win), Paris (1980/1981 win), Albufeira – where Russ enjoyed regular holidays – to Madrid (2019 win), Rome (1976/1977 and 1983/1984 wins) and Istanbul (2005 win).

Gavin added: “We stayed in touch with everyone who was taking part to keep a tally of the miles. People walked their dogs, went running, all the miles counted towards the target.

“We couldn’t believe it when we reached Istanbul in just 15 weeks so we extended the trip and ‘turned around’ to return to Liverpool; a total journey of more than 9,100 miles!”

The group raised more than £3,000 which was split equally between three charities: LFC Foundation, Two Saints Southampton and the Thin Blue Paw Foundation.

The Thin Blue Paw Foundation is a dog welfare charity that supports, celebrates and protects working and retired police dogs across the UK.

Trustee Kieran Stanbridge said: “Many people don’t realise that police dogs don’t retire with a pension or any financial support so that responsibility falls to their new owner. As former working dogs who have led strenuous lives, these canine heroes can have long-running health problems and are often impossible to insure.

“We are here to offer support to these dogs – and their owners – to ensure that they get the very best treatment and help to enable them to live long, happy lives and enjoy their retirements.

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“We have more than 300 retired police dogs registered with us and we need the support of the public so we can continue to help these dogs. That’s why we’re so grateful to Gavin and the rest of his fundraising group for taking on such a monumental challenge; it’s a really touching way to remember Russ and to leave a lasting legacy in his name.”

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