Celebrities take to the canal to raise funds for men’s health charity

TELEVISON adventurer Charley Boorman will lead a group of celebrities through Woking next week as they paddleboard along the Basingstoke Canal in support of Movember, the men’s health charity.

Former Chelsea and England footballer Wayne Bridge, former Formula One world champion Damon Hill, and James Haskell, the former Wasps and England rugby union forward, are among those joining him in “The Big Stand Up” for men’s health.

TESTING THE WATER – Charley Boorman, right, and Ben Bowers practise for their paddleboarding challenge on the Basingstoke Canal

They plan to stop at the WWF headquarters on Tuesday 18 May, provisionally around midday, as part of a two-day, 30-mile endurance paddle along the canal, helping to raise awareness of the importance social connection during difficult times.

The trip will take place immediately following Mental Health Awareness Week (10-16 May).

The initiative has been inspired by two-time testicular cancer survivor and Movember ambassador Ben Bowers and good friend Charley, who has also had testicular cancer.

Charley said: “I first met Ben a number of years ago. We had both gone through a scare with testicular cancer. Our paths crossed through a mutual friend and we became friends for life.

“When Ben asked me to get involved in the expedition to highlight men’s health and mental health I jumped at the chance.

“All my life, and all our lives, we are faced with challenges big and small. It’s how we get through them and what we do that counts.

“Our family and friends around us are also really important, so I’m delighted to join a bunch of like-minded people and get involved in this challenge.”

Ben added: “Having had a pretty tough year, as everyone has in 2020, I was in need of doing something positive not only for myself but for other men.

“I’ve had worse years through my cancer fight and I was able to draw upon the resilience built through those experiences to stay mentally well in lockdown.

“For me, keeping mentally well meant getting outside and engaging with nature. I’m so pleased that with Charley’s help we’ve pulled together our crack team of paddlers and hope we can inspire others to take positive action regarding their wellbeing.”

The team is completed by Iwan Thomas MBE (Olympic 400m runner), Chloe Madeley (presenter/fitness coach), Matthew Wright (presenter), Dean Stockton (better known as D*Face, street artist), Amy Voce (radio presenter), Nick and Giles English (founders of Bremont watches), and paddle guide Paul Hyman.

 The group aim to show that, no matter the situation you find yourself in, looking to friends for support and sharing experiences can be a good way to get through tough times.

Damon, the son of racing star Graham Hill, said: “I’ve suffered with depression since losing my father, aged 15. After my racing career I fell into a deeper depression, which was resolved with the help of talking to a therapist. One of the best therapies is being outside and doing something exciting, like paddleboarding, especially with a great bunch of people.”

James added: “Men’s mental health is something I feel very strongly about. So much more needs to be done to get men talking about their problems and taking action to fix them.

“We are doing a lot, but suicide rates are still going up, and while suicide is the biggest killer of men under 40 our work is not done.”

* FOR more information about Movember, which focuses on mental health and suicide prevention, prostate cancer and testicular cancer, or to donate, visit movember.com.

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