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Nurses walking length of Hadrian’s Wall to raise money for Sunderland PICU

Posted: 14/09/20

Tom Gardner and Ryan Dunlop, nurses at Cumbria, Northumberland, Tyne and Wear NHS Foundation Trust (CNTW), are walking the length of Hadrian’s Wall this week to raise money for activities to enrich patients’ experience on Beckfield Psychiatric Intensive Care Unit (PICU) where they both work at Hopewood Park, Sunderland.

Tom has worked as a nurse for the Trust for almost eight years, spending the majority of that time on Beckfield PICU, where he met colleague and fellow walking enthusiast Ryan.

Explaining his motivation for raising money for the ward, Tom said: “The past five years have taught me so much. I decided to take on this challenge as a way of saying goodbye, as I’m about to move on to working on a new ward for a bit of a change of pace.

“I feel a great deal of love and appreciation for the patients and staff on the ward, and I would like to help out one last time before we part ways.

“It’s going to be emotional to leave the team, but being able to give them this donation as a sort of farewell gift will make it easier!”

Tom has recently experienced his own struggles, with stress and anxiety taking a toll on his mental health. Walking and spending time in the outdoors has been a vital part of his recovery, making this walk especially significant for him. Tom said that, during some difficult times in recent months, “This walk and fundraising project has given me a positive focus and given me a reason to get out of bed in the morning; I can’t wait to get my walking boots on!

“On a deeper symbolic level, this ‘walk to recovery’ will be extra meaningful for me as it ends in Wallsend, the place I called home for most of my young life.”

Tom’s colleague and fellow walker Ryan has a military background and loves outdoor pursuits. Ryan initially proposed doing the walk together some weeks ago, and Tom then suggested making it a fundraising effort. The pair will be walking east along Hadrian’s Wall from Bowness-on-Solway to Wallsend over four days – Monday 14th to Thursday 17th – covering approximately 20 miles a day. Both are looking forward to a well-earned, if a little tiring, walking holiday!

The money raised will be donated to the ward via CNTW’s registered charity The SHINE Fund, which uses donations to provide the ‘little extras’ that make a big difference to people’s recovery. The money raised through the walking challenge will be ring-fenced for use by Beckfield PICU.

Tom and Ryan started fundraising with a goal of £250, but after just 6 days the target had exceeded £500 and they are hoping this momentum will continue.

In the past, money from The SHINE Fund has funded day trips and activities for patients. In response to restrictions put in place to stop the spread of coronavirus, the fund is focusing on providing people under the Trust’s care with craft materials, music equipment, mobile devices, games consoles, puzzles, and more to keep them happy and well throughout this difficult time. Tom added, “I know from my own experience working on the ward how much these seemingly simple things can help people to recover and improve their well-being.”

Andy Severs, ward manager at Beckfield Psychiatric Intensive Care Unit, praised their efforts saying: “We are really appreciative of Tom and Ryan for doing the walk and to everyone who has donated so far. This will greatly benefit the work we are doing with the patients, providing a positive distraction and focus for our patients and staff during these challenging times. We plan to use the funds to help replenish some Occupational Therapy equipment, as well as allowing the patients on the unit decide on how the money raised can be spent best.”

You can donate and track the pair’s progress on their JustGiving page, which will be open until 1 October.