Where to begin? The last couple of weeks have been a journey that I never thought would occur. I did not know CALM even existed on November 19 and nearly 2 months on I find myself collecting sponsorship money to help address the taboo subject of male suicide.
It was the tragic death of Gary Speed on November 20 which helped kick start it all. I like many others went through a profound sadness and a deep shock as to why someone would do this. A chance conversation with a friend brought CALM to my attention that very day and with it the inspiring message to take action. I browsed the site within minutes and the profound sentiment of what CALM was looking to achieve just grabbed me.
What came next was so quick and obvious. Raise money and spread awareness. Not tomorrow, next week or month but NOW. I went to bed that very night with a recurring thought. “Put yourself out, spread the word, raise awareness and no more taboos”. I’m just a humble civil servant who enjoys keeping fit. I’m no Superman. The idea just hit me in an instant – donate my salary for the day to CALM, cycle an enduring distance and seek to plug CALM and earn as much sponsorship as possible. Cycling to work and back (18 miles) fitted perfectly as a challenge for a man who had not ridden outdoors for over 10 years. By the end of the week, my employer gave me permission to canvass for funds, numerous messages had been sent off to raise attention and the training had begun for January 16, the day I would cycle for CALM
The weeks going forward through Christmas saw a relentless Facebook campaign including Justgiving.com. Having the hard sell approach seemed to work as the healthy donations came in. Colleagues, friends and family stepped up to the plate as the target of £500 became reality. Training in the gym became entertaining with the gym bike taking a pounding, the Rocky IV soundtrack providing unlikely inspiration and even this middle class mild mannered boy having the odd outburst of coarse language to get up that hill !
Race day came and 20 year old bike was primed. Purchased when Linford Christie won the Olympic 100m gold, Leeds were champions of the last ever Football League and I still had a high voice. I was also 5 ft 4 then and not the 6ft 8 I am now so set off with a highly raised seat and a big heart through the non-exotic hills and bumps of Greater Manchester. The office was reached in an hour and fifteen followed by a brief picture opportunity to spread the message of CALM. Return journey past serenely despite the hubcaps, potholes and drug dealers. Takeaway, bath and success ensued.
The money is rolling in and £500 will be beaten.
See justgiving.com/John-Brownhill if interested.
My civil service magazine also has an article in the pipeline. It’s only a start and there is so much more to come. Just go for it!