Students give “best Christmas present ever” to charity walker

Uniformed Public Services learners from Milton Keynes College raised over £1,000 for SSAFA, the Armed Forces charity last week by completing a sponsored walk. The students were inspired by local veteran, Russ Chittenden, who is walking the whole of the UK coastline to raise funds for the charity.

When staff at the college heard Russell’s story, they wanted to help. The Uniformed Public Services learners and staff were especially moved by the amazing challenge Russ has set himself and developed their own charity challenge to support him.

Maria Bowness, Group Director at the college said:

The Russ project has supported our learners to understand the universal qualities of Public Service operators such as commitment, endurance, robustness, resilience, teamwork and comradeship.

“We will continue to follow and learn from Russ’ inspirational journey and hope to join him at some point on his walk. We can’t wait to welcome him into college to celebrate his success once he is finished.”

Ex-Paratrooper Russ, who is currently passing through Inverness after having started his journey at Land’s End in Cornwall, is around halfway through his challenge. SSAFA contacted Russ to ask him how he felt about the youngsters’ support.

Russ said:

“It honestly means the world to me. It’s cold and wet and sometimes I’m so tired I almost fall asleep when I’m walking. And then I hear that these people, who don’t even know me, are following my journey and supporting me. It’s made my week that has, it’s the best Christmas present ever!”

Russ will be walking the coast for at least another six months and has already raised over £18,000 for the charity. He started the journey to raise awareness of mental health issues in the armed forces, and to support the charity which helps service personnel when they have difficult times. Since leaving the Army, Russ struggled to find a place in the world.

Russ said:

“Nothing was going right. I was really missing my work mates from the Army. You build up such a bond and then when you leave there’s nothing like that. I’d got into the habit of drinking quite a lot with my mates when we were serving, and when I left, I didn’t have that group of people around me, so I carried on alone, which was a big mistake.”

The drinking spiralled out of control and Russ lost his driving license and couldn’t hold down a relationship. One day he was discussing his issues with his brother and joked that he just needed to

‘take a long walk and figure stuff out’.

A few thousand miles on foot later and Russ is in a much better place, with a mission to complete, and a lot of walking ahead.

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By @Cobseo 54 years ago

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