hree bereaved fathers who raised nearly £900,000 for a suicide prevention charity after their sponsored walk went viral have begun a UK-wide trek, saying their challenge must go ahead because young people continue to die.
Mike Palmer, Andy Airey and Tim Owen said they will “walk with due deference and respect for Her Majesty the Queen and her family” as they began trekking more than 500 miles in support of the national charity Papyrus Prevention of Young Suicide.
The trio – who had all recently lost daughters to suicide – caught the attention of Hollywood stars Daniel Craig and Nicole Kidman, among others, with their 300-mile sponsored walk between their respective homes last year, discussing mental health and raising awareness of suicide prevention.
They are now walking to the Parliaments of the UK during a month-long, fundraising mission, which they hope will help encourage people to “quash the taboo” and get suicide awareness on the school curriculum.
Mr Airey, Mr Owen and Mr Palmer – known as 3 Dads Walking – said in a joint statement: “Our thoughts are with the royal family at this sad time. We would like to offer them our sincere condolences.
“The Queen’s unwavering devotion, leadership and service to the country and Commonwealth has been an inspiration and example to all.
“It is clear that the tone of the 3 Dads Walking UK 2022 challenge will be different to our original plan. However, we will continue our walk because young people continue to die by suicide.
“We will walk with due deference and respect for Her Majesty and her family.”
The three men said they chose September 10, World Suicide Prevention Day, to begin the Scottish leg of their walk from Edinburgh.
They will take in much of the UK including Northern Ireland and Wales before finishing in London, taking in all four Parliaments on the way.
They are walking in memory of their daughters, 17-year-old Beth Palmer, 19-year-old Emily Owen and Sophie Airey, who was 29.
Mr Airey, from Morland, near Penrith, said: “More than 200 schoolchildren are lost to suicide every year. That is both a tragedy and a national scandal which needs to be addressed.
“Our walk is to provide a focus for continuing the conversation with governments about embedding suicide prevention in the school curriculum.”
Mr Palmer, from Sale in Greater Manchester, said: “We’re walking for a month and we’ll be talking for a month. Talking about how we need to equip our young people with life-skills which they can carry through the rest of their lives to protect themselves and others.”
Tim Owen, from Shouldham in Norfolk, said: “It’s going to be an epic. It’s obviously double the distance of our last walk, double the time, and so hopefully we’ll meet double the people.”
Ged Flynn, chief executive of Papyrus, said: “It is remarkable that these proud fathers, who are each trying to deal with their own grief in their own way, have found a positive path forward together.”
More details of the walk can be found at www.3dadswalking.uk