Mum stepped up to help brave veterans

Charlene Donnelly knows a thing or two about going the distance.

Tuesday, 31st January 2017, 1:28 pm
Updated Tuesday, 31st January 2017, 1:31 pm
Charlene Donnelly, who is doing a sponsored walk for Combat Stress, is joined by lance corporal Chris McCaughtrie.

The Fleetwood mum has completed her challenge in aid of Combat Stress – and walked more than the length of the M6 motorway over the last 22 days.

Thanks to the support of not only generous local residents, but people right across the world, she has smashed her target of raising £500 for Combat Stress – the charity which provides help to veterans with mental health issues, including Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD).

Charlene knows first-hand about the daily challenge of PTSD, as her husband Darren spent 12 years in the military and served across the world, including Iraq, and the family has lived with the devastating effects of PTSD.

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Charlene decided to take on her epic challenge, inspired by the 22 push-up challenge last year, of walking 22km a day (a half marathon) for 22 days, at Gymetc, in Poulton.

Despite a few injuries, she was determined to keep going – and was buoyed by the support of people who came and joined her for sections of her walk. She chose to walk, rather than run, as it would take longer – to represent the fact it can take veterans a long time to seek help.

The 32-year-old said: “I had few hiccups, with blisters on my feet, a toe nail which has gone black and I will loose, and severe shin splints in my left leg. The blisters cleared and I usually got to around 12km before my shin started hurting and I limped the rest.

“I hit my target on my justgiving page and raised £540, but I haven’t yet counted what’s in the donation tins at the gym and I have a few items going on a charity auction.

“Strangers sent me messages saying they were coming along to walk, from as far as Bolton, Ormskirk, Lancaster and Blackburn.

“I’ve had Dancing On Ice star Dan Whiston, Miss Teen GB, Miss Blackpool Galaxy, three serving soldiers, veterans, Help for Heroes volunteers and friends join me – which has given me such a boost each day. It’s been great to have someone there to talk to and have them encourage me during the final 4km when it gets really tough. It’s been hard to switch off sometimes and I’ve been averaging three to four hours sleep a night, but they’ve helped me push through and kept me talking, instead of looking at the clock.

“I set up a Facebook page for my challenge and received so many messages of support from Texas, Australia, Singapore, Cyprus and the UK. One American couple saw the last article from The Gazette and shared it. They are making a documentary which focuses on the partners of veterans.

“I’ve had messages of support every day and people telling me their stories. Some have been very emotional to read. Because people shared my page, they helped a veteran in the right direction when he was in a very low place and he had never heard of Combat Stress before. I’m hoping he will get the help he needs.”