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  • Writer's pictureBelle Tiongco

Finlay's 7 trail extreme challenge in the UAE

The breeze from the mountains was still nippy. The only sound was the grinding of shoe on fine gravel as one by one, the mother checked her sons’ backpacks, making sure the water bottles were secure, and the snacks were safe and snug in her own backpack. It’s going to be a beautiful day, she thought, as she could now see the faint outline of the mountains against a dark blue sky that was slowly turning orange. The night sounds were gone, but the birds’ chirping would soon be taking over, quietly at first, but, as if on cue, the entire mountain will be welcoming them with nature’s songs of joy.

Finlay, 9, took the lead. Right behind him was his dad Darren, followed by his younger brother Frankie, 7, who had to take more hurried steps to keep up with the bigger boys. A few short steps behind were Abi, the boys’ mother, ever watchful, full of antipation for the adventure they were about to share.

I’m an armchair adventurer (a real contradiction of terms), and learning of the Reeves’ activity was like stepping into a Nat Geo adventure. Learning about Finlay’s dream was even more amazing.

“We started hiking as a family three years ago, where we were on holiday in Bhutan, and we saw how capable the children were,” said Abi, as she proudly tells the story of how it all started. It is obvious to see Abi’s passion for fitness, for nature, and how hiking puts all of these good things together, and how the goodness multiplies and overflows into things we fail to see.

Spotting unusual animals

Abi notes that her Finlay loves “spotting unusual animals; we have come across bright blue lizards, camouflaged snakes, foxes, magmatic Scottish deer, wild goats, all manner of birds and butterflies.” I remember how in grade school, the closest opportunity I came to learning about animals was by going through their lifeless, preserved bodies and skeletons with a magnifying glass. One can only imagine the wonder that children feel when they see curious creatures actually cross their path.

Children develop greater independence

Abi continues, “Children develop greater independence, it encourages them to test their capabilities and limits, increases body awareness, encourages problem-solving, abstract thinking, and learning from experience. Being out-of-doors, in general, encourages positivity and children develop a life-long relationship with nature and the outdoors, it releases endorphins, reduces stress, calms anxiety, and provides the children with the skill to be able to manage their own mental health into adulthood. They feel a strong sense of achievement and accomplishment at the end of a hike, and a strong bond and connection with those they experience this fulfillment with.”

Passionate about football

Today, Finlay is equally passionate about football and wants to combine his passions into a unique advocacy that we can all learn from. Finlay and family, who live in the UAE, will go on 7 hikes across 7 locations. “I would like people to understand how much fun football is, how it takes away all your worries and thoughts whilst you are playing. Football is the one thing I love and can do in any country, in any language, with any age of people, and love every minute! My friends in Football for Humanity need our support so that we can bring the same joy to as many children as possible. I want every child to have joy in their lives. Please visit their website and read about their work, and see how you can help!" Finlay adds with enthusiasm and wisdom beyond his years. Finlay knows that FFH uses the fund to buy much-needed footballs for underprivileged children who love playing football in many areas in the Philippines.

Over half a million children reached

Every little contribution counts. Football for Humanity has reached over half a million children with various football-related donations, in cash and in-kind, from all over the world. The joy generated by these contributions is priceless.

Finlay and his family started this year’s hike in Fujairah on the 22nd of January. The next hike followed a week later in Ajman, on the 30th of January. Hike number three was completed in Ras Al-Khaimah, on the 27th of February.

The goal is to “conquer” 7 trails in these locations

  • Abu Dhabi

  • Dubai

  • Sharjah

  • Ajman

  • Umm-Al-Quwain

  • Fujairah

  • Ras Al-Khaimah

Join Finlay's mission

I am 7,200 kilometers away, tucked in a little village in the south of Manila. One of these weekends, like Finlay, I will wake up before sunrise, put on my hiking gear, take my water and towel, and slowly but surely go out into the dissipating dawn. I will close my eyes momentarily, pretending that I’m hiking to the mangroves of Umm-Al-Quwain, and my path will be greeted by birds and scurrying lizards whose colours I have never seen before. As the cool breeze touches my cheeks and ruffles my hair, I’ll also think of the children who will soon have new footballs for their early morning training. I’ll greet the sunrise and I’ll be filled with wonder. Finlay has taught us a beautiful lesson. Even as somewhere, there may be darkness, the goodness of the heart lights up new paths, and teaches us to go where we can bring happiness and hope. Come, let us hike with Finlay!

Help Finlay fulfill his mission to give joy to children! Every donation will go towards brand new footballs for communities across the Philippines.

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