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Saturday, 27 April, 2002, 21:14 GMT 22:14 UK
Zeta Jones steps out for charity
Charlotte Church, Ian Botham and Catherine Zeta Jones
Made it: The three celebrities helped raise 1m
Movie star Catherine Zeta Jones stepped up to the challenge of a charity walk to raise money to build the first children's hospital in Wales.

The Swansea-born actress and teenage singer Charlotte Church joined former cricketer Ian Botham in Cardiff on Saturday for the final two miles of his 229-mile hike across Wales.

I'm very proud to be Welsh, but very concerned that we don't have a children's hospital

Catherine Zeta Jones

About 1,500 well-wishers followed their journey to the finishing line in Cardiff Castle, where on Saturday Botham ended his nine-day walk, thought to have raised around 1m.

The cricket legend was originally aiming to raise 250,000 for the Noah's Ark Appeal, towards their target of 5m for the first phase of a proposed 21m children's hospital.

But Botham paid tribute to the "mind-blowing" generosity of the Welsh people, who had given him up to 100,000 on each day of his walk for the cause.

"My second grandchild was born here in Wales," he said.

"I actually did not know that there was not already a children's hospital in Wales.

"Wales is one of the most modern countries in Europe and it is without this basic facility," he added.

Catherine Zeta Jones and Charlotte Church
The celebrity walkers brought out the sunshine

Zeta Jones - mother of 19-month-old Dylan Douglas - said she was delighted to fly in from her home in Los Angeles to help the cause.

"I'm very proud to be Welsh, but very concerned that we don't have a children's hospital," she said.

"Not that the children aren't getting the treatment, but it would be a wonderful place where they can go - comforting, comfy, with great treatment and great facilities for parents at a very stressful time."

Active support

But she admitted she had not done much exercise since her taxing role in the film version of the stage musical Chicago.

"Since I finished that, I probably haven't touched my toes because I was so bored of doing all that working-out stuff.

Charlotte Church revealed she had actively supported the children's hospital appeal since it began.

"I like to support a lot of children's charities because I feel that I can relate more to children, rather than helping adults' charities, who may feel a bit patronised by a 16-year-old helping them.

"I've been with this appeal for quite a long time - it's amazing to see how it's progressed and how generous people have been."

Catherine Zeta Jones
Zeta Jones also attended a celebratory gala dinner

Both stars are already patrons of the appeal, but they had their work cut out keeping up with Botham, for whom this was the latest in a series of long-distance walks for charity.

The cricket legend has been greeted by crowds of well-wishers - many brandishing large cheques - ever since he set off from Machynlleth, mid Wales, on Friday 19 April.

Botham assured his new walking partners: "I promised I wouldn't go over five miles an hour!

"It's the icing on the cake - a lot of work's gone in there, a lot of work that people don't see behind the scenes.

'A giant step'

"It's for those people to enjoy as well as us, and hopefully - most importantly - we'll make lots and lots of money."

Botham started the day at Barry, south Wales, before being joined by his celebrity friends in Cardiff Bay for the final stretch.

Ian Botham accepts a cheque from Andy Roberts of BBC Wales News New Media
BBC Wales News New Media donated 500

The trio attended a gala dinner on Saturday evening.

Botham and his team said the strength of public support had been the driving force behind their mission, which in turn has delighted the hospital campaigners.

"It's made the Noah's Ark appeal hugely high profile," said Suzanne Mainwaring, director of the appeal.

"Thanks to Ian Botham it's going to raise a huge amount of money, and take us a giant step forward towards getting the hospital built."

With a 250,000 cheque coming from Cardiff County Council, the appeal is now thought to be 1m short of its target.

  • BBC Wales News New Media is donating 500 of its prize money from the BT Welsh Press Awards to the Noah's Ark Appeal.

    BBC Wales's Sian Lloyd
    meets the stars at a fundraising gala
    BBC Wales's Penny Roberts
    "The money raised has smashed all expectations"
    Catherine Zeta Jones
    "It would be a wonderful place"
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