3 DADS WALKING
Three men who lost their daughters to suicide embarked on a fundraising walk that inspired the nation and raised more than £880,000 for charity
After enduring the most heartbreaking loss imaginable, Andy Airey, 61, Mike Palmer, 57, and Tim Owen, 52, forged a close bond when they met through the suicide prevention charity, Papyrus. Andy’s 29-year-old daughter Sophie died just before Christmas 2018. Mike’s daughter Beth was just 17 when she took her own life in March 2020, a few days after Tim’s 18-year-old daughter Emily, who like Beth, felt overwhelmed by pandemic restrictions, passed away.
The trio came up with the idea of a sponsored walk between their homes in Cumbria, Greater Manchester and Norfolk to raise funds for Papyrus, and awareness of suicide in young people.
Their initial target was £3,000, but as word of their challenge spread, donations hit a staggering £880,000. They met hundreds of people affected by suicide over the course of their 15-day walk and campaigned for additional mental health support in schools.
Their next walk saw the dads trekking 550 miles over 31 days, taking in all four UK parliaments, ending on 10th October 2022, World Mental Health Day, and taking their fund-raising total to more than £1 million.
Andy says: “During our walk we met very many suicide-bereaved parents, all of them said the same thing; it was only after they lost their child that they discovered that suicide was the biggest killer of under 35’s in the UK; they all asked, ‘If suicide is the biggest threat to our children’s lives, why is no one talking about it?’”.
Mike adds: “3 Dads Walking is not a club I want to belong to, but it gives us, as fathers, an opportunity to fight back and maybe make a difference. We are all too aware that there are more young people out there falling into despair and see no way out other than to end their own precious lives. There is help out there. There is hope and that’s what 3 Dads Walking is about, it’s about hope.”