Jason Baird has become somewhat of a local superhero since the pandemic first hit back in March of last year.
And we mean that both figuratively, and literally.
Alongside his friend Andrew Baldock, Jason has proudly become one half of the now-famous Stockport Spider-Men, and has been donning his spidey suit to weave a web of joy and lift the spirits of the community while out on his daily jogs for the past 11 months.
The dad-of-two and martial arts instructor has backflipped his way through three lockdowns, and has earned himself international recognition and tens of thousands of fans in the process.
Spotting spidey on his travels has become a popular activity for the people of Stockport, with children making special ‘stop here’ signs for their front windows, dressing up in masks and spider suits themselves to join in on the fun, and just generally looking forward to his arrival.
While putting smiles on faces at a time when it’s needed more than ever has ultimately been Jason’s goal over this past year, the character’s most-famous quote has remained firmly in his mind.
“With great power comes great responsibility”.
It was these important words that inspired Jason to not just make a positive change through his actions, but to create a lasting legacy with them.
A lasting legacy that has seen him raise over £75,000 and counting for charity.
The organisation most-significantly benefitting from Jason’s achievements is youth suicide prevention charity PAPYRUS – a cause that is very close to his heart, especially after admitting that he has struggled with his own mental health in recent months, and has sadly lost a friend to suicide during the first lockdown.
The charity says that suicide is the biggest killer of under 35’s in the UK, and it’s believed that around 200 school-aged children take their own lives each year.
And it was in the name of PAPYRUS that Jason completed his most impressive feat yet this past weekend.
He set himself the challenge of running an ultramarathon – equivalent to 50 miles – by making his way across the entire Greater Manchester borough, and after taking 100,000 steps, burning 6000+ calories, being accompanied on different legs by other socially-distanced comic book characters, including Batman, Wonder Woman, Iron Man and more, and running for a total of 11 hours and 19 minutes, he completed that challenge last Saturday.
Jason raised well over £8,000 for PAPYRUS just from the run alone, but it was as he crossed the finish line of his astounding achievement over one of the town’s major motorway bridges, that he set his eyes on what would become his most important mission yet.
To transform that fateful bridge into a “bridge of hope”.
While the 40ft bridge over the M60 on B6167 Lancashire Hill currently goes not have a name, it has sadly become known to many in the town as the site where several people have both attempted to, and have taken their own lives in recent years.
“The bridge as a whole has seen far too many people take their own lives,” Jason told us.
“Running across it as I neared the finish line just brought home that something had to be done to try to prevent others doing the same.
“As I crossed [the bridge], the barriers felt so low [and] I knew I had to make some sort of plea to at least try to make them taller [and] at the same time, try to take away the stigma of ‘that bridge’ where people jump, which it has sadly got”.
And so, in an attempt to “make a difference for our future generations”, Jason contacted both Stockport Council and Highways England yesterday to discuss the possibility of not only making the railings higher, but also giving the bridge a makeover.
He wants to transform the bridge into “a cheerful place”.
“I want to make it a place of remembrance for those who have taken their own lives there and a place to celebrate those who have tried to and survived.” Jason continued.
“I [also] want to try to name the bridge, as I don’t think it has a name, and I personally would like to name it ‘The Bridge of Hope’, as my vision is to have superheroes holding a purple heart with the names of those who lost their lives [and] purple is the PAPYRUS youth suicide prevention colour”.
To help make his vision a reality, Jason enlisted the work of Stockport-based artist Neil Roche to create an impression image of what the bridge could look like if the plans are accepted.
The colourful design sports the words ‘Marvellous Stockport’ in large lettering below the superheroes.
Jason’s vision was also further inspired after he was “blessed with company” and cheered-on by two young survivors of the 40ft fall from that bridge as he crossed the finish line.
He was greeted by Olivia Bartlett – who jumped off the bridge four years ago, and has since spent her time decorating its railings with messages of support to do all that she can to prevent others from doing the same – alongside local lad and mental health advocate Luke Smith.
Jason is keen to shine a light on the importance of Olivia and Luke’s stories within the wider community, and in a message posted to the Stockport Spider-Men Facebook group yesterday evening, he said: “I’m using our platform to get the word out further, but I’m taking a back seat to Olivia and Luke, as I believe they are both meant for this role to impact others.
“These two amazing human beings have bravely told me they are open, willing, and ready to share their stories to hopefully save others via our group [so] I will be posting what is going to be very emotional content from [them] in the coming days,
“Personally, I cannot thank them enough [and] it has deeply touched me more than anyone will know.
“It’s an honour and privilege to have even met [them], let alone be a person to share their darkest hours, [so] they both have my upmost love and respect.
“And it goes without saying that when we get the go-ahead to transform the bridge, both Olivia and Luke’s portraits will be featured”.
Jason is thrilled to see that his mission to create ‘The Bridge of Hope’ has already received massive encouragement from the Stockport Spider-Men group and the wider community.
He’s even revealed that he’s had two parliamentary cabinet members reach out to him in support as well.
Now, he’s currently in the process of trying to speak directly to a representative at Highways England that can “hear my plea and hopefully work with me on this”, and has admitted that the Stockport Spider-Men group will even work together and raise funds to have the works completed if needs be.
It’s clear to see that this transformation is something Jason is truly passionate about, and there’s no doubt the public are on his side every step of the way.
We’ll just have to cross our fingers, and wait and see.
If you’ve been inspired by Jason’s story and his outstanding achievements over this past 11 months, you can show your support for an extremely worthy cause by contributing to the goal of raising £100,000 for PAPYRUS via his JustGiving page.
You can also follow along with the Stockport Spider-Men adventures here.
And don’t forget to keep your eyes peeled and stay tuned for more Stockport Spider-Men missions coming in 2021 too.
More information about PAPYRUS can be found here.