Pennsylvania Plodders aim to raise £10,000 for charity walk in memory of mother

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Content warning: mentions of suicide

Three third-year university students are campaigning to raise £10,000 for the Mental Health Foundation.

Ben Hayes, Jamie Khan and Charlie Fanous, nicknamed the Pennsylvania Plodders, aim to walk 120km non-stop in under 40 hours. They are fundraising in memory of Ben’s mother, Gill Hayes, who committed suicide in January 2021.

The journey will start from Hayes’ childhood home in Pangbourne on March 19th and finish at Gill’s old local pub, The Old Ship in Hammersmith.

Hayes told Palatinate about the Plodders’ decision to undertake this challenge: “As we anticipate finding ourselves questioning both our mental strength and physical capabilities along our walk, we thought it might draw an appropriate comparison to people out there struggling with mental health issues; and that by us simply putting one foot in front of another, it may provide a bit of hope and inspiration to those that need it most.”

Hayes said that while they were unable to train intensively whilst undertaking third-year university studies, they would focus instead on “high-intensity methods that we hope will increase our stamina and overall fitness”.

Donations will go towards research and community programs in aid of mental health. According to Khan, who is a Durham University student, the campaign raised over £3,500 in the first three days. Currently, just over £7,000 have been raised.

“If our efforts can help prevent just one other family having to go through what we and sadly thousands of others have had to, then we feel it will be completely worth it.”

Ben hayes- the pennsylvania Plodders

Hayes writes on the campaign website that his mother showed “remarkable courage” in her long struggle with depression, campaigning for issues regarding mental health after recovering from a suicide attempt in 2013. Gill hosted a TED talk, “Depression, Suicide and the Power of Hope” in 2017, in which she shared her journey and advocated for the destigmatisation of mental health issues.

Gill’s passing thus came as a shock to Hayes, who writes that “the destructive power of depression can make someone do something completely at odds with their normal loving character.” He told Palatinate that the campaign “will be an incredibly emotional journey for me”.

“However, I also view this as a fantastic opportunity to continue her legacy and raise awareness of mental health issues whilst also raising money for a great cause.”

The Plodders hope that their campaign will reach and inspire others: “We truly hope that our campaign will make a difference in people’s lives, be it through the money raised or simply just a conversation that may not otherwise have happened. If our efforts can help prevent just one other family having to go through what we (Ben’s family) and sadly thousands of others have had to, then we feel it will be completely worth it.”

Those wishing to donate should visit https://www.justgiving.com/fundraising/ben-hayes28. The Plodders also welcome anyone to join them for a section of the walk from 19-20th March.

Image: The Pennsylvania Plodders

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