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WATCH: Samaritan on a mission to walk 440 miles for charity reaches Inverness

By Annabelle Gauntlett

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Chris Thornton is walking 440 miles to raise money for the Samaritan's.
Chris Thornton is walking 440 miles to raise money for the Samaritan's.

A Samaritans listening volunteer has made it his mission to complete an arduous 440 mile journey from John O’Groats to Darlington and District Branch of Samaritans – walking unsupported.

Every 10 seconds, Samaritans respond to a call for help.

They are there, day or night, for anyone who’s struggling to cope, who needs someone to listen without judgement or pressure. Samaritans are not only there for a moment of crisis, they’re taking action to prevent the crisis.

Starting on May 1, Chris Thornton, branch director at Darlington, began carrying everything he needed along the way, aiming to finish on May 26, and is set to visit other branches along the route.

The determined Samaritan reached Inverness today, after walking another 8 miles this morning.

Chris said: “I'm taking up a personal challenge that I've wanted to do for a long time, walking from Scotland to England. I'm doing this to raise vital funds for Darlington and District Samaritans.

“Samaritans vision is that fewer people die by suicide. The mission is to make sure there's someone there for anyone who needs someone, to give people ways to cope and the skills to be there for others.”

Chris has ‘always been keen’ to set himself an extreme walking challenge, and found it was a good opportunity to raise some money and awareness for his Samaritans branch in Darlington.

So far the Samaritan has raised over £2,700, in the bid to raise a target of £3,000 by the end of his challenge.

The Inverness Samaritans have supported Chris during his challenge by walking alongside him for an average of 15 miles, keeping him company and giving him a place to stop off overnight.

He said: “The support I’ve got from the Inverness Samaritans has been very, very good. They have come out walking with me, listened to my silly stories and they have looked after me.”

It was the walkers first time venturing out to John O’Groats, but certainly not his first time in Scotland as he worked in the Royal Air Force for almost three decades, of which he was primarily based in Lossiemouth.

Sharon Smith, Chris Thornton and Alison Wood with Mack and Hattie the dogs.
Sharon Smith, Chris Thornton and Alison Wood with Mack and Hattie the dogs.

Chris decided to become a Samaritan while working in the air force when he discovered he had a skill for listening.

He said: “A friend of mine was talking to me in the canteen and I just sat there listening to him. At the end I asked him why he didn’t talk to his mates about it, and he replied with ‘they don’t listen like you Chris’.

“So, from that, I found out that I’m probably a good listener and found the Samaritans.”

While passing through Inverness, Chris was joined by the city’s brand director, Alison Wood and listening volunteer, Sharon.

Inverness currently has around 40 listening volunteers at the moment, however, Alison is keen to grow the branch as Samaritans are ‘always looking for more volunteers’.

She said: “There is a great sense of satisfaction in just being there for people and listening because sometimes people in distress who are wanting advice, there is a lot of talking going on, but most of what we do is listen and let people talk about what is going on for them at that point without any judgement and without giving them advice.

Sharon Smith, Chris Thornton and Alison Wood with Mack and Hattie the dogs.
Sharon Smith, Chris Thornton and Alison Wood with Mack and Hattie the dogs.

Alison said: “This can really help them manage to cope with what they’re going through and hopefully find their own way through whatever difficulties it is.”

The group of Samaritans advocated for there to be more Samaritan volunteers in Inverness as they said: “There’s always a need for more Samaritan volunteers here, and across the whole country. There is never a second the phone is not being used.

“We would love to have more volunteers come join us because it will support the service nationally, but also to help us go to events and raise more awareness for the cause.”

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