Spending seven days handcuffed to a 3kg medicine ball is a task in itself, however, completing the 15km trek to the top of Slieve Donard with it still attached is without doubt a giant feat.
It was even more appropriate that North Coast resident Andrew Harney completed his mammoth challenge at the windswept Giant’s Causeway.
Andrew, a former Serviceman, took on the challenge to raise both money and awareness for Combat Stress, a registered charity providing support for Service men and women, helping them deal with issues such as post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), anxiety and depression and also ABF, The Soldiers’ Charity who help provide support for soldiers, former soldiers and their families.
Andrew, who served 13 years in the armed forces, explained why he took on the challenge.
“I was cuffed to a 3kg medicine ball for seven days 24/7 and the reason I did this was to show a symbolic representation of a heavy load that seriously impacts on a person’s everyday life with PTSD,” he explained.
“A lot of veterans have had to deal with some horrendous stuff while serving and sadly some of the memories of the things they have witnessed stay with them and that person carries it with them into civilian life.
“This can have a devastating effect on a person ultimately, which I have seen with my own eyes. A person can hit rock bottom and tragically take their own life.
“Let’s not shy away from this, some of our veterans really do need this help. We really owe them the proper support they deserve and that is why I did this challenge. It’s been an honour to carry the load.”
Having thrown his weight behind the challenge for Combat Stress, Andrew describes the work the charity does as ‘a lifeline’ for many veterans.
He added: “I have never suffered with PTSD myself, however I have had a taste of depression and have suffered with anxiety attacks and I’m not ashamed to admit that.
“I managed to get the right help and treatment and managed to turn a negative situation into a positive one. Sadly however, I have seen so many good people fall by the wayside to mental health issues.”
Having walked a total of 91.33km over the seven days, Andrew brought his seven-day challenge to a close at the Giant’s Causeway where he was set free by Causeway Coast & Glens Veterans Champion, Alderman Sharon McKillop.
“I have mainly been walking with the medicine ball in Bushmills, Portstewart, Portrush and the Giants Causeway area,” said Andrew. “I also carried the medicine ball up to the top of Slieve Donard which took me five hours. I have also done two gym workouts with it as well.
“I have met loads of great people who really do care deeply about this issue and I would like to thank every single person who donated.
“Thanks to Alison Natinal from the Army Cadet force who passed the challenge onto me, she has also completed the challenge.
“I would also like to thank Danny Kinahan the Northern Ireland Veterans commissioner and Sharon McKillop our Causeway Veterans area champion and last but not least I would like to thank my wife for putting up with me.”
Having released the former Serviceman from the burden of carrying the medicine ball, Ald McKillop said: “I was delighted to welcome Andrew to the finish line of his challenge.
“I would like to commended him for his giant effort to raise funds and further awareness of veterans mental health issues.
“There are many veterans living with a lot of issues and I firmly believe none of our veterans should be disadvantaged. Anything that helps raise awareness of their plight has to be congratulated.”
Andrew’s fundraising total is currently sitting at around £750. If you would like to donate go to: https://events.soldierscharity.org/fundraisers/andrewharney