Meet the fundraising couple walking 16,000 miles around UK coastline for charity being welcomed into city by Veterans in Crisis Sunderland
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Former Royal Artillery solider Daniel McNeil, 26, decided to take on the gruelling challenge for the Soldiers, Sailors, Airmen and Families Association (SSAFA) after crediting the charity with “turning his life around” after suffering problems with mental health and drug and alcohol addiction after leaving the forces.
It was during Covid lockdown that he came up with the idea to “give something back” and on March 15 he set off on his fundraising trek.
He said: “I got diagnosed with an auto-immune disease when I was 19 and in 2017 I ended up having to leave the army. Civilian life is so different to the military. The forces train you to have this warrior mindset and I really struggled to cope with both my illness and returning to civilian life.
"SSAFA really helped to get me back on my feet. During lockdown, I didn’t have a job at the time and that is when I came up with the idea of walking around the UK, both to raise money and to highlight the work of the charity."
After setting off from his hometown of Dumfries, Daniel trekked his way around South West Scotland before arriving in the seaside town of Dunoon where love blossomed with Yorkshire lass Charlotte Brook who decided to join Daniel on his journey.
Charlotte, 25, is now walking for Women’s Aid, with the couple displaying flags and posters of the two charities as they walk.
She said: “The charity supports women who’ve suffered from domestic abuse, something which I’ve suffered myself as well as people I know. I’ve enjoyed the walk but it can be tough to deal with the wintry weather and heavy loads.”
After walking and camping their way around Northern Scotland, including the Orkney and Shetland Islands, the couple travelled down the Northumberland coast before enjoying a warm bed and breakfast courtesy of Veterans in Crisis Sunderland after arriving in the city on Thursday night (December 15), having walked over 4,000 miles of their journey.
Daniel said: “A mutual friend knew Ger Fowler (founder of Veterans in Crisis Sunderland) and they got in touch to offer us a place to stay in their emergency rendezvous centre while in Sunderland. We’ve been camping most of the way and so it’s great to be able to get a warm bed for the night.”
Veterans in Crisis Sunderland support worker, Sam Neil, said: “We were only to happy to provide somewhere warm and comfortable for Daniel and Charlotte. While we help veterans in the city, the SSAFA do a fantastic job nationally and this fundraiser is for a great cause.”
On Saturday (December 17) the couple will set off on the next leg of their journey to Seaham. Both Daniel and Charlotte have been taking on casual work to fund the different stages of their journey and have so far raised £11,644 via their JustGiving page to support the charities.
Daniel added: “Our target by the end of the walk is to raise £100,000.”