On 24 April, four families from across the country will unite in an incredible challenge which will see them travel 96 miles on foot in memory of loved ones who lost their lives to suicide.
Self-titled the ‘4 Families Walking’, the group will come together and take on the West Highlands Way, travelling from Milngavie to Fort William, in a bid to raise money and awareness for PAPYRUS. Along their journey, they will share stories of their loved ones while encouraging people to open the conversation of suicide in the hopes of preventing other families from experiencing the same loss they each have.
The group is made up of the parents, siblings, aunties, uncles, grandparents and friends of Lily Mae Sharp, Callum Scrimgeour, Jake Robertson and Ben Smart, who all sadly ended their lives. Each young person will have a specific day of the challenge dedicated to them, with all families choosing a charity close to their hearts to walk in aid of. On the fifth and final day, the families and joining supporters will travel approximately 15 miles in honour of all four of their lost loved ones.
Victoria Solomons is one of the parents who will be putting on her walking boots and swapping her home in the North West for the steep mountains and loch shores of Scotland. Victoria lost her daughter Lily Mae back in 2017 when she was just 13 years old. Lily was a “bubbly, bright and well-liked” teenager, who had been eagerly anticipating attending what soon became the tragic Ariana Grande concert at Manchester Arena on May 22.
However, just four days before the concert, Lily sadly lost her life to suicide.
Describing her daughter as “beautiful, funny, clever, caring and totally amazing”, Victoria said she “never expected” Lily to have taken her own life, and still remains uncertain of the reasons behind it.
Following the death of Lily six years ago, Victoria found comfort in immersing herself into fundraising events and raising awareness of suicide prevention. Her first mission saw her raise a significant sum of money to purchase one of Manchester’s ‘Bee in the City’ sculptures which went on to be featured in Heaton Park as a tribute to her daughter.
After the Manchester Arena attack in 2017 – the concert which Lily would have been attending – many people described the 22 victims as ’22 bees’, and Victoria said picturing Lily as the 23rd bee helped with mourning her daughter. The statue now acts as a permanent memorial of her “perfect and kind-souled” little girl, as well as offers a place that Victoria’s younger daughter Bella can go to visit her big sister.
After the success of her first fundraiser, Victoria and other relatives of Lily’s committed to various events which over the years have accounted for an overall sum of around £15,000 for PAPYRUS. Now, after a little break away from 10km training and organising fundraisers, Victoria decided it was time to once again do something to honour Lily and the other young people who have sadly lost their lives to suicide.
“I miss her every single day. In fact, the ‘miss’ can be overwhelming sometimes, which is why this walk is so important. I know she’ll be walking every step with us, out in the fresh air, willing us on,” Victoria shares. “Suicide is totally preventable. Everyone should know that there is always another way. I don’t know why Lily took her life and I’ll never know, but there is always another way and it’s ok not to be ok.”
By coming together for the journey, the four families and their accompanying supporters aim to raise awareness and money to support those who “feel so desperate that the only way out of pain is by deciding to take their last breath”, while simultaneously celebrating the lives of those they lost. Each of the families have chosen to dedicate their donations to charities which focus on removing the negative stigma that surrounds mental health and raising awareness of suicide prevention in young people. Victoria, with support from the other families, chose to dedicate Lily’s leg of the walk on day three to PAPYRUS which she says has been a charity close to her heart since losing her daughter.
The families will also be joined by Mike Palmer of the 3 Dads Walking, who will accompany the group for the entirety of the West Highlands Way. Some of the members will run the route, others will walk, while one has even hinted at cycling the journey; some will complete the full 96 miles and others will commit to a single or couple of legs – what is consistent is their shared strength and focus to raise awareness and get people talking about suicide prevention.
Writing on their fundraising page Victoria wrote: “We are the mums, dads, brothers, sisters, aunts, uncles, grandmas, grandpas, cousins and very dear friends of four treasured loved ones, Callum, Lily Mae, Jake and Ben who felt they could no longer go on, felt it too difficult to live another day and therefore tragically ended their own lives.
“Our connection is the deep personal loss we have all felt, which has driven us with commitment and deep passion to do everything in our power to STOP the “Silent Emergency of Suicide”.
“Awareness and prevention of suicide and how we can make suicide a thing of the past is at the heart of our message. “
To read more about the 4 Families Walking or donate to their fundraiser, visit here: https://www.sponsorme.co.uk/maryharper/connecting-on-the-west-highland-way.aspx