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Gary McKee to be awarded Freedom of Copeland

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MARATHON man Gary McKee is to be awarded the Freedom of the Borough of Copeland.

Mr McKee, who has raised over £300,000 for Macmillan Cancer Support, will receive the rare accolade – the highest a local authority can bestow – at a civic ceremony after the proposal was agreed by Copeland councillors this week.

In proposing that Mr McKee, of Cleator Moor, becomes a Freeman of Copeland as a ‘person of distinction’, mayor Mike Starkie said that his recent achievement of running 100 marathons in 100 days was “remarkable”.

Mr Starkie added: “I can’t speak highly enough of Gary McKee. The money and awareness he has raised will make an enormous difference to the people of this area, and he has brought positive national and international coverage to Cleator Moor and Copeland.”

Councillor John Kane added: “Gary McKee is fantastic man and a dedicated fundraiser whose achievement will never be surpassed.” And Councillor Hugh Branney described Mr McKee as a “role model for Cleator Moor and Copeland.”

Mr McKee began supporting Macmillan when his father, Victor, was diagnosed with cancer in 1997, and started a series of national and international endurance challenges.

It has included a cycle ride through Brazil (2004), a climb to the top of Kilimanjaro (2005), a trek of the Abel Tasman in New Zealand (2007) and a run from Land’s End to John o’Groats (2011). Additionally, he has run the Coast 2 Coast and the completed the Cumbrian Run nine times and has organised host of fundraising events in local pubs and clubs.

Mr McKee specified at the start of his fundraising that all money raised stays locally, and the more than £100,000 raised from his marathons tops his total up to over £300,000.

He also holds assemblies in schools, offering an insight into fitness to the next generation, alongside spreading awareness of cancer support and the work of Macmillan. He was named Macmillan’s National Volunteer of the Year in 2012, and carried the Olympic torch through Whitehaven in the same year.

Mr McKee said: “I was close to tears when I was told that the council is proposing to make me a Freeman of the Borough; to even be considered is truly overwhelming.

“I’m humbled to be seen through the eyes of others as inspirational and a driver for change.

“But the really remarkable part is the money that people have donated, and the support they have offered me. That’s the inspirational story.”

Details of the award ceremony will be announced soon.