Denis Johnston vows to raise £10,000 for charity as he prepares to turn 70 with special sporting challenge

Denis Johnston, well known for his involvement in the local hockey and cricket scene, is marking a significant birthday with a challenge to raise £10,000 for charity.

Tuesday, 1st June 2021, 3:31 pm
Denis Johnston is preparing to take on the special sporting challenge as part of his 70th birthday celebrations in lieu of personal gifts

During Men’s Health Awareness Week on 19 June, Denis will be celebrating his 70th birthday with a sponsored 14 mile walk between Lisnagarvey Hockey Club in Hillsborough and Lurgan Cricket Club, two grounds that have played an important role in his sporting life.

Denis is hoping to reach his £10,000 target for Macmillan Cancer Support and the South American Mission Society Ireland (SAMS) and has raised almost £2,000 already.

Denis says that sport has always played a huge role in his life and that’s what has inspired his fundraiser:

“Sport has always kept me fit, active and engaged in the local community. I’ve been privileged to captain both the Lisnagarvey and Lurgan clubs, and I’m Co-Chair of Lurgan Cricket Club at the moment, so it seemed fitting to physically connect the grounds, the sport and the communities that have given me so much joy and motivation in my (nearly) 70 years with a birthday challenge - I’m thinking of it as 7 + 7 miles at 70!

“In the last year, I’ve watched a lot of wonderful people do inspirational things to raise money for charity and I wanted to do my bit. I didn’t want a party or presents so I thought, here’s my chance to integrate my love of hockey and cricket, and do something for charities that mean a lot to me.”

Denis, who is a former General Secretary of SAMS, has been involved in the charity’s international work for more than 40 years, and wants to support a new community development project in Paraguay. He also has a very personal connection with Macmillan Cancer Support, the charity which supported his wife Hilary after a cancer diagnosis.

“My wife Hilary died 23 years ago at the age of 40, and as she approached the end of her life we had the support of Jenny, a Macmillan nurse. She kept Hilary so positive and I will never forget the difference she made to our lives at that time. I’ve also recently lost my younger brother Alan, an Irish cricket international, and close friend Archdeacon Philip Patterson to cancer so it means a lot to me to be able to give something back in their memory.”

Denis will be joined on his walk with his two sons Philip and Stephen, his late brother’s wife Moira and the late Archdeacon’s wife Eleanor, as well as family and friends, and he’s not short of well-wishers for the occasion.

Ireland Rugby International, and Lurgan RF & CC Ambassador, Jacob Stockdale is willing Denis on and hopes that people will support him to reach his target. Jacob says, “I am delighted to see Denis retaining his sporting links and congratulate him on marking his 70th birthday in this unique manner. I wish him well in this endeavour and trust you will support his chosen charities.”

Joanne Young, Senior Relationship Fundraising Manager at Macmillan says that Denis’ idea is a wonderful way to combine birthday celebrations and fundraising. She adds, “98% of Macmillan’s income is from donations and fundraising activities like Denis’ - we have never needed the public’s help more than we do right now. I would like to say a huge thank you to Denis for the energy and enthusiasm he has put into his plans. Please support his fantastic efforts and donate what you can today!”

To sponsor Denis and raise invaluable funds for Macmillan and SAMS visit

For support, information, or just a chat, call the Macmillan Support Line on 0808 808 00 00, 7 days a week, 8am-8pm, or visit