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A pair of nurses have put on their walking boots and set off on what they have coined a ‘walk to recovery’, in a bid to raise money to improve patient activities at a psychiatric intensive care unit (PICU) in Sunderland.
Tom Gardner and Ryan Dunlop, nurses at Cumbria, Northumberland, Tyne and Wear NHS Foundation Trust, have today started their fundraising challenge of walking the length of Hadrian’s Wall (pictured above).
“This fundraising project has given me a positive focus and given me a reason to get out of bed in the morning”
They are both walking the 100-mile journey to raise funds for the Beckfield PICU where they work at Hopewood Park in Sunderland.
Mr Gardner, who has worked at the trust for almost eight years, told how recently stress and anxiety had been taking a toll on his mental health.
Walking and spending time outdoors had been a vital part of his recovery that had, therefore, made this fundraising challenge especially significant for him.
Before setting off today, Mr Gardner said: “This walk and fundraising project has given me a positive focus and given me a reason to get out of bed in the morning. I can’t wait to get my walking boots on.
“On a deeper symbolic level, this ‘walk to recovery’ will be extra meaningful for me as it ends in Wallsend, the place I called home for most of my young life.”
Having worked on the Beckfield PICU for the past five years, Mr Gardner was moving on to work on a new ward for a “change of pace”.
He said he wanted to raise the funds that would be used to enrich patient activities to “help out one last time” before he moved elsewhere.
“The past five years have taught me so much,” said Mr Gardner. “I decided to take on this challenge as a way of saying goodbye, as I’m about to move on to working on a new ward for a bit of a change of pace.”
He added: “I feel a great deal of love and appreciation for the patients and staff on the ward, and I would like to help out one last time before we part ways.
“It’s going to be emotional to leave the team but being able to give them this donation as a sort of farewell gift will make it easier.”
Mr Gardner had met his walking partner, Mr Dunlop, while working together on the unit.
Mr Dunlop, who has a military background and enjoys outdoor pursuits, had initially suggested doing the walk together some weeks ago. It was then decided it should become a fundraising effort for the unit.
“This will greatly benefit the work we are doing with the patients, providing a positive distraction and focus”
The cash raised will be donated to the ward via the trust’s registered charity The SHINE Fund, which uses donations to provide ‘little extras’ that make a big difference to people’s recovery.
The money raised through the walking challenge will be ring-fenced for use by Beckfield PICU.
The two nurses had initially started fundraising with a goal of £250, but after just six days the target has already exceeded £600.
In the past, the charity has used money donated to fund day trips and activities for patients.
Due to the coronavirus pandemic and national restrictions in place, the money raised would be focused on providing patients with craft materials, music equipment, mobile devices, games consoles and puzzles.
Mr Gardner added: “I know from my own experience working on the ward how much these seemingly simple things can help people to recover and improve their wellbeing.”
The pair will be walking east along Hadrian’s Wall from Bowness-on-Solway to Wallsend over four days, aiming to cover around 20 miles a day.
Andy Severs, ward manager at Beckfield PICU, praised their efforts and said: “We are really appreciative of Tom and Ryan for doing the walk and to everyone who has donated so far.
“This will greatly benefit the work we are doing with the patients, providing a positive distraction and focus for our patients and staff during these challenging times.”
He added that the trust planned to use some of the funds to “help replenish some occupational therapy equipment”, and that patients on the unit would choose how the rest of the money could be spent.
The fundraiser will run until 1 October. People can donate and track the pair’s progress on their Just Giving page.
The trust will also be posting some photos from the walk on social media using the hashtag #WalkForPICU.