Looking Back at 25: A decade of CRY’s Durham Walk

In the autumn of 2007, The Durham Riverside Walk (as it was originally known) was pioneered by bereaved dad and loyal supporter, Jeff Morland – whose son, Levon, had died from the condition Wolff-Parkinson-White (WPW) in 2002, aged just 22. Jeff was encouraged and assisted by his good friend, Steve Percival, who fast became a key organiser of the event, not only attending on the day and helping to recruit and rally volunteers but also writing and recording a CD that would be sold to help raise further funds. He is still an integral part of the team, to this day…

The Durham Riverside Walk soon became a regular date in the CRY events calendar, with members of the fundraising and bereavement support teams coming up to this beautiful city every year to meet and mingle with the families affiliated with the event. We wanted to make sure that everyone attending had a CRY t-shirt, as well as reinforce how highly valued the event was becoming in terms of awareness and fundraising. It was also important to us that any families – perhaps those who were recently bereaved or coming into contact with CRY for the first time – had the opportunity to speak to someone on the day, should they feel in need of support.

From the outset, CRY was committed to supporting it every step of the way, helping it to grow and flourish and maximise its impact. It was agreed that an official photographer (locally well-known press photographer, Doug Moody) would cover the event, following the walkers from the start, along their way and then through to the finish point of the circular route. Over the years, Doug has captured some amazing and iconic images (often with Durham Cathedral and Castle as the backdrop) which were often featured on the front pages of the Northern Echo and other local papers, as well as CRY’s website and social media platforms.

A positive and key objective of the Durham Walk is awareness and creating greater understanding of CRY’s work, so in 2017 it was decided to re-route, and take the CRY walkers away from the river and through the centre of the city where walkers would have more visibility and interaction with the general public. Permission was granted by the local council and, as well as supporters walking together in groups boldly wearing their CRY t-shirts (often prompting passers-by to stop to ask about the charity and its causes), we were able to set up an information point at prominent spot in the Market Place, which brought further interest in the annual event (which from this point onwards, became known as the CRY Heart of Durham Walk).

As well as many of the ‘original families’ attending from the start (including local CRY Representatives Kenny and Maralyn Bowen who’d both been involved with CRY since 1996) others were starting to come from further afield, travelling down from Scotland, up from Peterborough, as well as increasing numbers from surrounding areas such as Newcastle and Sunderland.

CRY’s press office team would work closely with Doug all weekend, ensuring that photos and press releases of families were sent out swiftly to the relevant local media, further ensuring that the important messages about CRY’s work were shared as widely as possible, across Durham and the North East.

Last year (October 2019) marked CRY’s ‘decade in Durham’ – and it was announced that over the past 10 years, the event had raised more than £77,000, as well as bringing together many local families who took great comfort from being able to walk and talk alongside others who had gone through a similar experience of grief to them.

Amongst the many people who came together to mark the 10th Durham Walk were the family and friends of Eleanor Keeler from York, who had tragically died a year (almost to the day) before the first ever Walk in October 2009, aged just 20. Eleanor’s family had taken part in the event every year since her sudden death and last years’ event held particular poignancy, marking 10 years since her passing.

2020 – as has been the case for many group fundraising events across the UK this year – has presented unusual circumstances and challenges for the event’s organisers, but as with the Heart of London Bridges Walk earlier in the year, CRY was determined that the Durham Walk would still go on, albeit in a new-look, virtual format.

So, on Saturday 3rd October, supporters were encouraged to “Do their own Durham Walk” – clocking up around 5miles, 8k or 10,000 steps around their local area and uploading photos and quotes to a virtual memory wall, hosted on the CRY website. It goes without saying, the response was wonderful with many poignant messages and images posted, and really showed how people love to get involved in the Durham Walk.