Rugby player raises funds for Samaritans with year of challenges

Fylde Rugby Club player Cian O'Donnell raised more than �3,300 for Blackpool, Fylde and Wyre Samaritans in a year of challenges
Fylde Rugby Club player Cian O'Donnell raised more than �3,300 for Blackpool, Fylde and Wyre Samaritans in a year of challenges
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A year of gruelling challenges led Fylde Rugby Club player Cian O’Donnell to raise more than £3,300 for Blackpool, Fylde and Wyre Samaritans.

The 31-year-old became a volunteer for Samaritans and set up a fundraising campaign called ‘Defying Stigma - a year of challenges’ to raise awareness of getting support for mental health problems following the suicide of a family friend.

Cian, from St Annes, said: “I wanted to try something a bit different to help reduce the stigma attached to mental health.

“And so the idea of a year of challenges and going out of my comfort zone came about.

“While the initial goal was to complete one event a month, an ever-expanding list saw a total of 25 events completed across 2018.

“They ranged from half marathons to adventure races and triathlons.

“I can’t thank everyone enough for supporting Defying Stigma and Samaritans this year.

“We have raised an unbelievable amount to date which will go towards helping our callers.”

Cian started the challenge in January 2018 with the Central Lancashire Half Marathon. Other events included the Ironman Weymouth, Liverpool Half Marathon, and Total Warrior.

It wasn’t all plain sailing for the rugby player with injury niggles throughout. A persistent calf injury reared its head during the Great North Swim at Lake Windermere and reappeared a few weeks later during the Gaelforce West, 67km running, cycling as well as a kayak leg and a climb of Croagh Patrick, one of Ireland’s highest mountains.

One of the hardest challenges for Cian was his last event of the year – the 24/7 Christmas run which involved running 7km a day for 24 days in an advent calendar style to help highlight that the Samaritans are available 24/7 for anyone who needs them.

He added: “I was completely naive looking back.

“I didn’t think that running 7km would be much of a challenge, but running every day was tough.

“Little niggles soon magnify into bigger problems over 170km.”

Thanks to donations on his fundraising page – https://mydonate.bt.com/fundraisers/defyingstigma – and a quiz night held at Fylde Rugby Club, Cian has so far raised £3,300 for the Samaritans – and donations can still be made.

He added: “I can’t thank everyone enough for supporting Defying Stigma and Samaritans this year.

“We have raised an unbelievable amount to date which will go towards helping our callers.”

The Samaritans welcome new volunteers and encourage anyone who is interested to get in contact.

If you need to talk to Samaritans, call free any time on 116 123 or you can email jo@samaritans.org