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Why Andrew lugged a heavy ball and chain on 56-mile trek

Ex-serviceman took burden to top of Slieve Donard and hauled it to the Giant’s Causeway

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Andrew being met by Alderman Sharon McKillop at the end of his challenge

Andrew being met by Alderman Sharon McKillop at the end of his challenge

Weighed down: Andrew on top of Slieve Donard

Weighed down: Andrew on top of Slieve Donard

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Andrew being met by Alderman Sharon McKillop at the end of his challenge

Spending seven days handcuffed to a heavy medicine ball is a task in itself — but completing a 15km trek to the top of Slieve Donard with it still attached is without doubt a giant feat.

North Coast resident Andrew Harney completed a week-long challenge that saw him walk more than 50 miles cuffed to the ball at the windswept Giant’s Causeway.

Andrew, a former serviceman, took on the challenge to raise both money and awareness for two charities — Combat Stress, a registered charity providing support for veterans, helping them deal with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), anxiety and depression, and ABF, The Soldiers’ Charity, which also helps soldiers, former members of the military and their families.

Andrew, who served 13 years in the armed forces, said: “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.

“A lot of veterans have had to deal with some horrendous stuff while serving. Sadly some of the memories of the things they have witnessed stay with them and that person then 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.”

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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, but 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 was able 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 more than 56 miles over the seven days, Andrew brought his challenge to a close at the Giant’s Causeway where he was set free by Causeway Coast & Glens Veterans Champion, Councillor 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 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 also to Alison Natinal from the Army Cadet Force, who passed the challenge onto me. She has also completed the challenge.

“And I’d also like to thank Danny Kinahan, the Northern Ireland Veterans commissioner, 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, Sharon McKillop said: “I was delighted to welcome Andrew to the finish line of his challenge.

“I would like to commend him for his giant effort to raise funds and increase 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


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