A former soldier from Manchester is embarking on a 24-hour bike ride in his own home to help raise money for mental health charity CALM.
Benjamin Anthony, who served in Afghanistan during a seven-year career as a commando, is aiming to surpass the 400-mile mark when he hits the pedals this weekend; cycling from 5pm on Friday (30 May) right through to Saturday evening.
Ben, who has lost both his sister and best friend to suicide, is hoping that his bike ride will help raise awareness of mental health and give back to a great organisation that supports people during dark times.
“After floating in and out of children’s homes and the care system for most of my childhood, I finally got lucky and found a forever home with my amazing foster parents, mum and dad,” says Ben.
“Unfortunately my big sister Naomi was not so lucky and unfortunately found herself in a dark place. Sadly, at 17 she took her own life.
“A few years went by and heartache struck again. My best friend Jason, who unbeknown to his friends and family had been suffering from mental health issues, had taken his own life. I couldn’t understand. Outgoing, cheeky, charismatic and loved by everyone – he had seemed perfectly fine.”
Ben says that he too has suffered from mental health issues.
“After returning from Afghanistan in one piece I had an accident at home and broke my femur, and I had to learn to walk again,” he explains.
“Throughout my childhood, my one escape was athletics, so to have that taken away from me, had a devastating impact on my life. The dark days came and went. I knew I had to speak up, I didn’t want to be a Naomi or Jason. Thankfully, I confided in the people around me and this got through one of the most difficult times in my life.
“It is now more important than ever to speak up and reach out. If my journey has taught me one lesson – it’s that life is unpredictable, we need to treasure and support the people around us.
“I also believe that physical exercise helps us to become mentally stronger. If you can push through when the going gets tough, you can push through anything. I will be pushing through the suffering for a full 24 hours on my trainer, and raising as much money as I can for CALM.”
Throughout the epic 24-hour bike ride, Ben will be streaming live Instagram stories and getting other people to join him and discuss mental health, which has become an even more pertinent topic during the COVID-19 crisis.
He has already smashed his JustGiving target of £2,400 and now wants to take the total as high as possible.
Ben’s ride starts and finishes in his Castlefield lounge from 5pm this Friday.
You can support his herculean challenge by donating to his JustGiving page.
Be sure to follow him live on Instagram for updates.