Pilgrim Dan celebrates birthday on the road

Dan McNeil, from Dumfriesshire, is walking the whole of the UK coastline to raise funds for the charity which helped him out in his darkest hour.

SSAFA, the Armed Forces charity, stepped in to help Dan when his life took a downwards turn. Now he is raising funds for them to help people like himself, and he’s not stopping, even for his birthday.

In March 2021, from his hometown, Dalbeattie, in Scotland, Royal Artillery veteran Dan started his epic journey. He is already over half way around, currently just passing through Essex.

Towards the end of his military career Dan was diagnosed with auto-immune disease and struggled with chronic pain, leading to being discharged from the Army. His life was on a negative spiral and he was contemplating suicide when he asked SSAFA for help.

Dan said:

“I joined the Army when I was sixteen and served in 19 Regiment Royal Artillery. Since returning to civilian life it has been tough for me dealing with chronic pain, depression, and anxiety. In my darkest hour, my SSAFA caseworker turned up at my flat and put £20 on my electric meter and filled my fridge. This simple act of kindness somehow lifted a weight off my shoulders and allowed me to see a way out of my hopelessness. I can’t thank them enough for everything they’ve done.

“A bit later, lockdown challenged my mental health again, especially not having a job and a routine. One day I sat quietly and meditated for four hours, asking the world what I needed to do. Finally the answer came to me: walk.”

Over a year into his challenge Dan met Charlotte Brook, who started to walk with him and became his partner. Together they have walked hundreds of miles. Charlotte is taking a break from the walking right now but will be meeting Dan in London for his birthday on 6 March.

Dan said:

“I’ve really been missing Charlotte but she is coming to see me for my birthday. There have been some ups and downs on my journey so far but meeting Charlotte definitely the best day so far.”

To support Dan, and veterans like him, you can donate here: justgiving.com/fundraising/danwalksuk  

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