Hunslet Hawks fans organise 21-mile tribute trek from Leeds after friend’s sudden death

Mark Byron Smith pictured with his son James.
Mark Byron Smith pictured with his son James.
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Friends of a keen Hunslet Hawks fan who died suddenly earlier this month are set to walk 21 miles in support of his family.

Mark Byron Smith, who used to take his son James, eight, to the rugby league club’s games, died suddenly on Sunday July 10.

To mark his memory and raise funds to ensure that James can still attend Hawks matches, up to 40 fans are set to take on a six-hour fundraising walk from the Garden Gate pub in Hunslet to Cougar Park, the home of Keighley Cougars, in time for the teams’ fixture on Sunday.

It comes after the club staged a minute’s applause in tribute to Mark, put his picture on the front of the club’s match programme and Hawks players wore black armbands ahead of the game against London Skolars on Saturday.

Fellow fan Gareth Evans, 35, from Middleton, helped to organise the fundraising walk after learning of Mark’s untimely death.

“Mark was a big character. He loved Hunslet and was really proud to be a part of the club,” Gareth said. “He just loved going down to the games with his son.

“We’ve been a quite close knit group of supporters, going home and away together, and when something as tragic as this happens, you try to rally around.”

Sunday’s walk was organised by fans who consulted with Mark’s family and is open to all of his family, friends and fellow Hunslet supporters.

The walk will see the group wear Hunslet colours on the trek from the Garden Gate pub, along the Leeds Liverpool Canal to Cougar Park. They have already raised more than £550.

Gareth added: “Our first thoughts were for his son James and what we could do to raise a bit of money, maybe for a trust fund and also to give him an opportunity to carry on going to the matches.”

To donate visit crowdfunding.justgiving.com/walkingforniffer.