Last Saturday evening, Aaron Connolly arrived at Celtic Park, to kick off a very long walk to Livingston’s Tony Macaroni Arena ahead of Celtic’s 12pm kick off on Sunday – all in aid of Celtic FC Foundation and to raise awareness around mental health.
His solo 30-mile walk through the central belt of Scotland, on a freezing cold night represented a personal journey for Aaron, who has lived with mental health issues since he was young. He initially got involved with the Foundation prior to the pandemic in February 2020, leading a sponsored walk from Celtic Park to Hamilton Accies’ Fountain of Youth Stadium.
After a stay in a psychiatric hospital to assist with his mental health challenges in 2019, Aaron planned his initial Hamilton group walk and then followed it up by walking to Livingston with a group in March 2020. Since then Aaron’s football therapy initiative, Time to Tackle, has gone from strength to strength.
The past two years have been a bit of a rollercoaster for Aaron, having welcomed another two beautiful children to his family – twin daughters – but also having sadly spent another period of time in a psychiatric hospital at the end of 2021. As a result, he felt that the time was now right to take on this mammoth initiative, and highlight that every challenge can be overcome, no matter how much of a feat it may appear to be. He saw this undertaking as a reflection of the challenges he faces in his own day to day life too.
Aaron said: “Everyone has their own challenges but, from a personal perspective I have survived suicide attempts and my own mental health issues. We all face challenges every day in life, whether it is down to mental health, a lockdown or just everyday stresses. My way of reminding myself that I can overcome these things when I need to is to set myself a crazy goal. Previously doing it with a group of people was a very different experience, but this was a more of a mental challenge, ending in a great win for my mental health and then, thankfully, for the team on the pitch.”
In 2020 Aaron and the group raised over £2,500 for Celtic FC Foundation’s work with people suffering from loneliness and mental health issues and he has already smashed the £1,500 milestone this time around. Across the broad range of the Foundation’s work, many of our project participants face mental health issues, as well as other challenges and Aaron recognised this and was keen to get involved.
He said: “This club was built on charity at its core and I am proud that we are very aware of our roots. Throughout the pandemic I have kept a close eye on Celtic FC Foundation’s work in helping vulnerable people in the community and beyond. I knew I wanted to get involved again by raising money and giving back, as you don’t just walk 30 miles overnight for the sake of it, so it’s nice to give back to others while you can.”
Aaron speaks freely about his mental health challenges in order to raise awareness of the fact that everyone faces obstacles which they need to overcome and they often can’t see a way past them.
He finished by adding: “I hope this challenge reinforces the message that there’s always a way to overcome issues and speaking to people is the way forward. I hope I’ve opened the door for people who are struggling with mental health or everyday life and that they find a listening ear, because if you persevere, you can get through anything. I’d also like to thank everyone for the messages of support and donations throughout my journey as I know it’s a challenging time for many and it’s not easy to find extra money, but the Foundation is truly a worthy beneficiary.”
We are so grateful to and proud of Aaron for his magnificent support. If you would like to get behind his efforts, you can still make a donation HERE.
Or if you would like to get involved and fundraise on behalf of Celtic FC Foundation by setting your own personal challenge, please contact [email protected]