AN 80-year-old cancer sufferer who has raised thousands of pounds over the years to support the battle against the disease is embarking on his ultimate challenge.

John Ackroyd begins a gruelling Grand Canyon expedition this weekend, in aid of the Yorkshire Cancer Centre.

The octogenarian says the trek may be his last for the cause – but he is not 'bowing out' with a whimper.

"We'll be trekking every day for a week," said Mr Ackroyd, from Denholme.

"First we go down into the canyon – with ten miles of steep descent – then we'll be trekking and taking on all sorts of daring tasks, like jumping off really high cliffs into lakes and climbing up steep ascents on metal ladders!

"For me in my condition it will be a challenge indeed.

"I have previously done three treks and each has raised substantial amounts, all for the Yorkshire Cancer Centre.

"The funds help the centre to make life easier for its patients as well as have available the most up to date equipment it can afford. But most importantly for me, the centre is active in the search for cures and better methods of treatment.

"This time with the trekking I'm pushing my luck because I am no longer as fit as I would like, or indeed have been in the past, however I am determined to have a go."

Mr Ackroyd has been following a training programme at the Nuffield Health Centre, in Cottingley, as part of his preparation for the challenge.

And he has a fundraising target of £4,000.

An online giving page, at, has coined-in nearly £3,500.

"Thanks to some amazing people – including friends past and present – it is a fantastic amount and I hope to get to that £4,000 figure," he said.

"The centre – based at St James' Hospital in Leeds – is a wonderful cause, which makes the challenge so worthwhile."

Mr Ackroyd was from this area originally, and after spending 20 years in Reading, returned here to take part in a new scheme aimed at helping get young people out of custody or care situations.

He developed his outdoors skills and was involved in establishing the Duke of Edinburgh's Award scheme for the youth service in Keighley.

"It was really successful and I met some wonderful young people whom I still meet sometimes – but now of course they are adults with their own youngsters!" he said.

Mr Ackroyd, who received an MBE for his work with young people, was first diagnosed with cancer when he was 72.

"It altered a lot of my abilities and I finally had to retire!" he said.

"Whilst I am still alive and fighting I want to do my bit, so here's my last chance to push myself and hopefully enjoy the experience."