Fans to walk 130 miles in memory of Sunderland AFC supporter and talented footballer Harvey McWilliams

Football fans across the region are taking part in a 130 mile walk in memory of Sunderland AFC supporter Harvey McWilliams who tragically took his own life just before Christmas (2021).

The walk will raise vital funds for the mental health charity ManHealth and will visit 17 professional and semi-professional clubs across Wearside, Tyneside, Teesside, Northumberland and County Durham.

Taking place over six days, walkers are due to arrive at Harvey’s beloved Stadium of Light on Good Friday (April 15) when Sunderland AFC are due to face Shrewsbury Town.

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There to meet them at the Beacon of Light will be Sunderland legend and former captain Gary Bennett MBE.

Harvey was just 18 when he passed away and dad Michael, who will be taking part in the walk, said: “As circumstances collided, there was a moment when Harvey was frightened and made a decision that led to him not being with us now.

“I’m still grieving, the whole family are, but this march is our way of honouring Harvey because he meant so much to so many people.”

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Michael works as a facilitator for ManHealth and is only too aware of the issues many young men experience with their mental health.

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A 130 mile walk is taking place in memory of Harvey McWilliams and to raise money for the mental health charity ManHealth. Harvey tragically took his own life at the age of just 18.

He said: “I know it’s a twist of fate that I work in mental health but we have to break down the stigma of mental health problems among men. If this walk helps start the conversation, it will be worth it.

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"I want everyone to know that Harvey wasn’t living with mental health issues – it was quite the opposite.”

As well as being an avid SAFC fan, Harvey was a talented footballer in his own right, having played for Darlington FC’s Academy. He’d started university life at Exeter where he recently broke into the grassroots Exeter Panthers team.

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Michael added: “He made quite an impact with the Panthers as they’re changing their team’s colours to Sunderland’s red and white to honour

Harvey playing football for Darlington FC Academy.
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Harvey and their player of the year award is to be named after him.

“There has been great support from all the clubs on the walk and the likes of Northumberland FA. It seems football is galvanising the various communities to get behind the walk.

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“Sunderland AFC are doing their bit with their very full support of men's mental health and the fans’ Branch Liaison Council are very much behind us. I'm chuffed they're supporting us.”

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Harvey McWilliams with dad Michael.

Jim Gilling, chair of the SAFC Branch Liaison Council (BLC), added, “We at the BLC wish Michael and the rest of those participating best wishes for the walk and hope they raise plenty of funds for ManHealth.

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“This charity is fully behind helping to improve the quality of life for men in the area. The BLC is proud to support this event.

"The BLC will provide assistance in promoting the event and also much-needed refreshment when walkers reach the Beacon of Light.”

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Michael says his late son’s love of football is continuing to "inspire him”

He said: “My fondest memories of Harvey - apart from his birth, of course - was just watching him play. He was a talented, old-school defender. Think Kevin Ball or Lee Cattermole, shirt tucked into his shorts – that was Harvey.”

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For more information on all the football clubs visited and to support the walk, contact www.manhealth.org.uk/events

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