The Cross Word: The Pompey folk making Oakley’s wish come true

Oakley Bedford, left, in training with Paul Miles. Picture: Mick Young (150081-14)
Oakley Bedford, left, in training with Paul Miles. Picture: Mick Young (150081-14)

Dave Waterman is continually astounded by what he witnesses.

Everyday Pompey folk going to amazing lengths to do special things.

And every single one of them in the name of his son.

It’s been 10 years since Oakley Waterman lost his battle with a rare form of cancer at the age of six.

Rarely has a tragic event had such a galvanising effect on the Blues community.

‘When you see the people get behind Oakley and his legacy it is humbling,’ said the former Blues defender, as he reflected on what has been achieved over the last decade.

The legacy Waterman refers to is the Oakley Waterman Caravan Foundation, the charity set up in the wake of the little fighter’s death in 2005.

The foundation emerged out of Oakley’s wish for other children like him to be able to visit a holiday park near Chichester, just like he did with his family.

Precious moments and memories live on with the Watermans from those days spent on the Sussex coast.

Thanks to the endeavour of the people in this community, other children are today doing the same.

A jaw-dropping £300,000 has been raised to date, allowing not one but two caravans to be purchased. Now sights are set on delivering a third.

With the upkeep of two caravans topping £20,000 each year, fulfilling Oakley’s wish remains a perpetual battle – one which is met head on.

Bike rides, runs and swims have been among the host of fundraisers down the years.

Former keeper David James even once donated his fee from his newspaper column.

Now the people of Pompey are breaking new ground, as they step into the boxing ring in Oakley’s name.

Blues kitman, and former Commonwealth Games competitor, Kev McCormack will be among those lacing gloves on March 14 at a charity fight night at the Mountbatten Centre.

And the Leigh Park Warrior himself, Portsmouth’s favourite boxing son Tony Oakey, will be coming out of retirement to take on Cosham’s former Southern Area champ Paul Dyer.

They are the names people know. But what about those who are stepping into the squared circle for the first time for Oakley?

So take a bow Lee Waterman, David Birmingham, Paul Miles, Andrew Bedford, Craig Anstey, Scott Wilson, Pete Williams, Oakley Bedford and Kevin Wheeler, who will be boxing with little or no experience.

The size of the challenge these men face as they put themselves through the pain barrier to get into the shape needed to compete, will have dawned on them by now.

Trainer Danny O’Reilly has been a driving force in that process at Ballys pro boxing gym in Fratton.

Boxing is the least forgiving of sports to those who cut corners.

That’s what makes what is being witnessed here such a remarkable process – once again ordinary people are doing extraordinary things.

When Pompey folk need to mobilise they aren’t found wanting.

‘Pompey people are good, solid people,’ said Waterman, who was born on Guernsey but now lives in Gosport. ‘You look at the passion of the fans. When something touches their heart they look after their own.’

And that is exactly this city has done with the Watermans.

Oakley would have turned 16 last week and been preparing for his GCSEs, no doubt full of the vibrancy which characterised his living years.

His family lit candles to mark the occasion, with the conviction Oakley is looking down with a smile at those making his wish come true.

To support the boxers and the Oakley Waterman Caravan Foundation text OAKS01 £(amount) to 70070.