There’s some moments in life you can never really plan for. The Pride of Britain Awards was one of those! I was honoured to win the ‘Regional Fundraiser of the Year’ award for the Granada Reports (North West) region, and to have the opportunity to attend the final in London on 30th October.
Mental illness has affected me for several years, particularly depression, anxiety and bulimia. It’s so important to share these challenges, and having experienced them, there is simply not enough help available. I wanted to help fill this gap by raising money for YoungMinds to help young people get the voice they deserve. Through my challenge ‘Climb The UK’ this Summer I covered over 5,000 miles by bicycle, foot and kayak, climbing to the highest point of all 100 UK counties in 72 days. This raised over £24,000 for YoungMinds. I never imagined climbing to the highest point of Norfolk would lead to this!
Only recently I wrote down some long-term goals and one was to win a Pride of Britain award – to prove to myself that I had made a significant difference in the world. You can imagine my surprise when ITV News burst into a coffee shop and presented me with the regional award whilst having lunch a couple of weeks ago. Mum deserved an award for keeping it a secret for an entire week! (Watch the moment here>)
Paul Hollywood took a selfie with me and mum, I chatted to Olympian Greg Rutherford about running injuries, sat in Sharon Osbourne’s chair before Ozzy turned up, asked Noddy Holder whether it was Christmas yet, bantered with Gail Platt from Coronation Street, accidentally stood on Katie Piper’s dress, and obviously I wasn’t leaving without a photo with Holly Willoughby to tease dad back home! The A-listers treated us like the stars and we had an incredible three-course meal with some of the biggest legends in the country, from James Cracknell to Kelly Holmes, sat metres away, just like a normal restaurant. Jeremy Corbyn tested me on the highest points of three counties which I answered correctly… I think. Only Lord Alan Sugar refused a selfie. After dinner, the cameras started rolling ahead and producers ran around the room.
Even with Jimmy Carr and Paddy McGuinness in the room it was the inspirational award-winner Moin Younis who took the room by storm with innocent humour at Gareth Southgate’s expense… the list goes on! I also hoped to chat to Prince William about his mental health work and he had literally passed just inches away but sadly didn’t get the chance as he was escorted out of the room. But most inspiring of all were the other award winners – a room of people who had defied adversity and raised millions for charity – and I couldn’t believe I was there too. One of them is walking 300 miles home from the awards to raise even more money! Although disappointed I didn’t win the overall award out of the 17 ITV regional finalists, it went to Jake Coates, one of the bravest and most humbling people I have ever met. The stories made us cry, laugh and proud to be British. Often we only hear about the bad stories but Pride of Britain reminds us of the amazing things that we rarely hear about. We don’t fundraise for recognition, but being recognised like this just gives us more fire to keep making a difference.
Our award was the last of the evening at 11pm, and we finished with a chorus of ‘All You Need Is Love’ (SPOILER ALERT!) the after-party continued until about 1:30am, being interviewed and mingling with the celebrities once again. I wasn’t going to sleep anytime soon anyway.
Everything felt like a weird dream as we headed home to normality. Hours later I was speaking at an event in Liverpool to raise awareness for hidden disabilities. Mental illness is a prime example. Looking at my award on the mantelpiece will give me a real boost through the low points and struggles, but I’ve come home inspired that there is so much more I need to do.
So… in a couple of weeks I’ll be cycling from home to Edinburgh, over 300 miles, in a target of 24 hours. I’m hoping to push my current fundraising total over the £25,000 mark (please donate here!). Why? To show others through physical challenges that mental illness isn’t a weakness, and talking about it is the greatest sign of strength.
Thanks again to everyone for your support and words of encouragement, I’m truly grateful.
… P.S. Adversity, you lost!