As the late Errol Brown of Hot Chocolate once (almost) sang... “It started with a Tweet; never thought it would come to... er... this....”
It’s more than two years now since former Spice Girl Melanie Chisholm sent me a “good luck” message as I embarked on a series of challenges on behalf of the mental health charity Mind; and I am still going—note how I neglected to add the word “strong”!
Since last summer, I have been working with Time to Change, a project which is tackling the stigma surrounding mental illness and attempting to reassure people that it is fine to talk; and fine to ask for help.
After two years, and 54 “challenges”, I thought it was time to bring down the proverbial curtain. I’d done two stand-up comedy gigs, climbed into the ring and been punched in the face by a professional boxer, taken on one of the country’s finest badminton players, got up on stage and played darts against some of the best in the world; and so many other things—some big, some small, some relatively easy, others incredibly physically and/or mentally demanding.
I’d driven in the region of 4,000 miles to fulfil some of the tasks, but I’d met some wonderful people and had some unforgettable experiences—all with the sole purpose of supporting mental health awareness...
However by the end of December it was clear that there was still a desire... a determination... a need even, to carry on; so I added another sixteen tasks to the list and immediately went on the wagon for “Dry January” (which, trust me, is far easier than “Chocolate-free Monday”).
Time to Change does not accept donations so I have tried to raise awareness of mental health in general, and my own specific condition (dysthymia) through blogs, through talking openly on live radio and at work... but one of this year’s tasks is also going to double as a fundraiser.
The event in question is a 12 hour solo darts marathon, which will take place on Saturday 14 May. Any money raised as a result of sponsorship, and the planned sporting raffle/auction will be shared evenly between the Jenny Wallwork Foundation and Grangetown Netball Club.
Jenny is a former badminton international who won (alongside Nathan Robertson) a Commonwealth silver medal in 2010. Jenny subsequently revealed that she had suffered with bulimia during her career and, as a result of her own experiences, she set up her Foundation in 2015 to offer the opportunity to talk freely, and provide specialist support to those affected by mental illness. Jenny is an inspiring young woman and it is a genuine privilege to be able in some small way to support her work.
Back in 2014, Grangetown Netball Club helped me to complete the challenge of playing my first game of netball Such was the welcome I received that I not only remained in touch with the club, but I actually now compile match reports for the Premier League squad. The club is run by remarkably dedicated volunteers and offers so many opportunities to players of all ages and abilities to enjoy the physical and social benefits of competitive sport. Doing this marathon is the least I can do to thank them....
I think it’s fair to say I’m not a “natural” fundraiser. I know I’m not great at selling myself, but I hope I’ve shown enough over these past two-and-a-bit years to hopefully persuade a few of you to make a donation via the event’s JustGiving Crowdfunding page, the link to which is here...
I realise there are so many fantastic people out there, raising money for wonderful causes. I certainly don’t come under the heading of “fantastic”—I’m a very ordinary bloke just trying to make a small difference—but in their own individual ways, the Jenny Wallwork Foundation and Grangetown Netball Club are both wonderful organisations.
It will mean a lot to complete this challenge; it will mean even more to complete it with your support.