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Portadown man and friends to conquer Seven Summits for mental health charity

The group initially aimed to raise £2,000, but their proactive outreach and the subsequent overwhelming support has already surpassed expectations.

Dwayne Stewart during one of his training hikes

A Portadown man and five friends are set to scale the seven highest peaks in the Mourne Mountains to raise funds for essential mental health services.

Dwayne Stewart and his group, known as ‘Peaking in our Forties’ are conquering the Seven Seven’s challenge in support of AWARE NI, a leading mental health charity in Northern Ireland.

The endeavour will involve scaling the peaks within twelve hours on Sunday, August 13.

The journey began with six determined individuals committed to the challenge, aiming to strengthen their bond with the mountains they had known from childhood and to explore new summits.

“We all have busy work and family lives, so getting to the Mountains on scheduled weekends became a good way to dedicate time to hiking in small groups and get a good chat and catch up at the same time,” Dwayne said.

The group, consisting of five Northern Ireland men and an honorary Kiwi, found a shared love for the Mournes, further fuelled by the desire to support a cause meaningful to all. They were all familiar with AWARE NI and its dedication to mental health support in Northern Ireland.

The pandemic’s impact on mental health and the experiences of their loved ones further inspired their support.

Dwayne added: “We all recognised that many people found it difficult to adjust to the world they found themselves in and then re-adjusting to normal life again afterwards. So many people, across all walks of life, experienced mental health issues as a direct or indirect result.”

(L-R) Andrew Winter, Andrew Nixon, Trevor Sneddon, Hayden Stewart and Andy Jaffrey during a practice hike

Months of preparation ensued, involving regular mountain hikes to build strength, stamina, and camaraderie. However, with the challenge fast approaching, Dwayne Stewart and one other recently encountered a setback, including an ankle injury, preventing them from participating in the main event.

Despite their disappointment, they remain actively involved, taking on other roles, including “chief motivator, cook, photographer, and driver”.

Lesley Wright, Community and Events Officer at AWARE NI expressed her gratitude for the group’s commitment to mental health support.

She said: “We are thrilled to see the guys taking on the Seven Mournes challenge to benefit AWARE NI. Their determination to raise funds and awareness for mental health is commendable, and their contributions will make a meaningful impact in the lives of those we support.”

The group initially aimed to raise £2,000, but their proactive outreach and the subsequent overwhelming support has already surpassed expectations. They have since increased their goal to £3,000, with donations pouring in from friends, family, colleagues, and their sporting club networks.

Dwayne reflected on the impact they hope to achieve through their efforts, saying: “If the money raised only helped a handful of people out of difficult mental health times and assisted them turn things around in the future through AWARE NI support, then we would be delighted that, in some small way, this group made a positive difference in someone else’s life through the challenge. That would give us all a lot of joy!”

To support ‘Peaking in our Forties’ in their mission to raise funds for AWARE NI, you can visit their fundraising page.

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