In December 2022, James Crossen decided enough was enough. Enough children in our communities have taken their own lives. Enough young people have suffered suicidal thoughts and convinced themselves their best option is to no longer be here. Enough ignoring the prevalence of suicide in society.
After hearing about PAPYRUS 18 months ago following the loss of a 16-year-old boy at his local rugby club, it sparked an urge in James to draw people’s attention to this damaging epidemic.
“It really hit me. How can a 16-year-old lad who is part of a rugby club, got a great family, good looking young boy, had his whole life ahead of him want to end it? I thought to myself ‘where are we going wrong?’,” James says.
Being a father of two, James knew he needed to do something that would help raise awareness and highlight the severity of suicide in young people. He knew this was a conversation that was currently going under the radar that needed to be brought to light.
“I’ve got two kids myself and while I’m quite lucky, I’ve always had good support around me and a generally positive outlook on life, my concern isn’t necessarily for myself, it’s for my children and I guess that really brought it home,” James adds.
As someone who is regularly active in his everyday life, James wanted to commit to something that came with a risk of failure. He wanted to do something which would challenge him, both physically and mentally, and would help him raise significant funds in honour of PAPYRUS and the wider cause of suicide awareness and prevention.
Taking inspiration from a man at his local gym who had recently ran a marathon, James decided instead of sitting around and doing nothing, he would “sit around” and row 100km – the equivalent of just under two and a half marathons!
If this wasn’t testing enough, James also decided he didn’t want to hold off on his challenge and his opportunity to spotlight suicide rates in young people for much longer, so shortly after his idea was born, he set the date of his event for less than four weeks later.
Writing on his fundraising page, which he set up just 10 days before the event, James wrote: “There will definitely be some physical challenges, along with the logistical challenges of refuelling the thousands of calories needed, but the hardest challenge is likely to be mental. However, this is nothing to what some of these kids are facing. I’ll be made-up if you can donate and help bring awareness by sharing and commenting.”
On Saturday 21st January, James headed outside to his rowing machine with a target completion time of nine hours. One quick Google search will tell you that’s a very ambitious goal, particularly for someone who has never previously completed a rowing distance remotely close to that beforehand. Prepped with advice from football nutritionists and ultra-athletes, his challenge began.
Throughout the day, people braved the cold winter weather to support James, accompanied by homemade banners, motivational quotes which they stuck to the machine, and ample encouragement. Many cheered him on as the hours went by, others tried their hand at rowing on a second machine that was set up for people to get involved, and some even committed to seeing it through to the very end with James as the weather continued to plummet to minus three degrees.
7 hours, 33 minutes and 100k later, James did it. Smashing his goal by almost 1.5 hours, James completed the ultra-marathon in a record time that not only helped him raise over £8,000 for PAPYRUS, but landed him the #1 position in rowing for over 40s in GBR. While the short-term effects may have involved nerve damage in his hands, a weakened body for days and undeniable exhaustion, James said it was more than worth it for the cause.
“This was about finding something that tested me that people would then back me on which could then help other people through the donations to PAPYRUS,” James shares. “I wasn’t going to quit. I knew that I’d get there in some shape or form, so I kept going.
“Throughout life you get impacted by various things, and you might not realise it when you’re younger, but you get impacted by suicide and that impact is lifelong – it never leaves you.
“This wasn’t about me, but instead about my kids. Suicide has been there in my life, and the way society is now for young people, suicide is one of the biggest problems we’ve got to face. It’s a tough world for kids and I just thought if I could do anything just to help just one person, I can’t change the world, I can’t do that much but at least I can do something.”
If you’re inspired by James’s story and would be interested in fundraising for PAPYRUS, please get in touch with our fundraising team via email, email@example.com, and they will be happy to help and let you know how we can support you along your fundraising journey.