A woman who lost a close friend to suicide spent a year taking on a challenge in her memory.
Nikki Gaynor, 46, was devastated when a friend of hers committed suicide in 2015 and turned to a County Durham charity for help.
Since then, Nikki, of Darlington, has dedicated her time to suicide awareness and is about to take on a year-long running challenge.
Nikki said: “When someone commits suicide, it’s like a grenade exploding in a family. It’s like a ripple effect.
“They have the trauma of losing that person, but then they have no help, no one to support them with how they feel after losing their friend or family members.
“The North East of England has the highest suicide rate in the whole of the UK and it’s mostly males.
“When you look at statistics like these, it’s like I have to do something to help.
“I don’t want anyone to feel like their only option is to kill themselves.”
Struggling to cope with the loss of her friend, Nikki turned to the If U Care Share Foundation for help.
The Chester-le-Street Charity supports families affected by suicide and was established by Shirley Smith and her family after the tragic death of her son Daniel O’Hare.
Nikki has spent the past 12 months taking on a mammoth running challenge to raise money for the charity that has seen her run between a mile and 5 km every day.
In a twist, she wore shorts every day, whether it was sunny or snowy while taking on the challenge.
She will complete the challenge by completing the Darlington Park Run and finishing at the Darlington Fire Hall on Saturday.
She said: “I wore shorts all winter no matter how cold it was because I decided I had to think outside the box because everything I was going to do was canceled.
“I thought I had to do my part and raise awareness about mental health and the system is on its knees.
“If U Care Share’s helplines had increased by 291% in the first lockdown, then this latest lockdown would have been a lot worse because obviously on dark, cold nights people couldn’t even go to their backyards.
“I just think people need this support and If U Care Share is amazing.
“They go to schools, they go to primary schools and do workshops and help so many people.
“They helped me when I lost a friend and wanted to pay him back. It became my passion because I don’t want anyone to feel what my friend was feeling, or anyone to feel that.
“If I can save a person and raise money for If U Care Share to help that person, that’s what I want to do.”
Nikki added, “I’m not a runner, I don’t do a lot of races so I decided I should have run the Great North Run last year and it was canceled. So we ran from Durham to the Darlington fire station and thought I would run everyday.
“I ran a mile to 5 km a day depending on how my legs feel and like I said even in the freezing cold and snow my legs were bright red in the snow people stopped me and asked me why I had shorts on.
“I explained that this was a charity I was doing it for and people gave me a pound because they thought I was crazy.”
Nikki said she was thrilled to take on the challenge, adding: “I think I could always end up wearing my shorts all the time and people recognize me now and say ‘There’s this crazy woman wearing shorts in the snow “.”
“I am excited and proud of myself to have managed to finish it.
“There were days when I wasn’t sure my legs could work, but I did it because I had to and it’s an achievement. It made me feel good about myself and good to be able to help others. “
To donate to the Fundraising Challenge, go here.