Family’s 133 mile charity walk after being affected by suicide, twice.

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A Bradford family are walking 133 miles over five days, in memory of their two relatives who took their own lives. The walk will begin at Northampton's Sixfields Stadium on April 1st at 7:00am, and will finish at 5:00pm on April 5th at Bradford City's Valley Parade, with all proceeds going to Andy's Man Club, a charity that offers support for men who are struggling with their mental health.

On 17th February 2017, Billy Burnett took his own life leaving behind his four children, Chloe, then aged 17, Ellie aged 12, Hollie aged 11 and Emily aged 10. Billy was an avid Bradford City supporter and was present at the Bradford City stadium fire on 11th May 1985. Following the fire, Billy's mental health went into decline and he battled for over thirty years with depression, before he finally lost his battle at the age of 49.

When Billy took his life, his ex-partner, Joanne (the mother of his children) and her husband, Phil Fairbrace were left to pick up the pieces for his devastated children. However, following a breakdown in relationship with his family, the unexpected death of his mother, ill-health and a subsequent battle with depression, on 7th October 2023, Phil, aged just 40, took his own life too. He leaves behind his wife Joanne, 42, his four step-children, their younger daughters Lola, 10, Hannah, 7 and Olivia, 5, his older son, Leo, 21 and two young grandchildren.

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Following Phil's death, Joanne's sister, Colleen Dodd, contacted Andy's Man Club, a male suicide awareness charity in Halifax, to advise them they would be asking for donations to their organisation at Phil's funeral. The charity, which offers peer-to-peer support for men, opened in 2016 and they now have over 150 groups across England, Scotland and Wales where men can meet every Monday evening in a safe, judgment-free space to discuss their worries and mental struggles. They have over 900 facilitators with more than 3000 men attending their weekly groups, but they are determined to have a group within a thirty-minute drive of every city in the UK so that more man can access help when they need it.

Phil Fairbrace with wife Joanne and children. Their final Christmas together in 2022.Phil Fairbrace with wife Joanne and children. Their final Christmas together in 2022.
Phil Fairbrace with wife Joanne and children. Their final Christmas together in 2022.

It was following their contact with the charity and hearing about this target that Colleen sat down with her husband, Andy, and they started to brainstorm ideas to help raise more money. 'Phil and Billy's Memory Walk' was born in that moment.

Phil, who was originally from Northampton, had always loved being outdoors and walking so it seemed a fitting tribute to complete a charity walk that started in Northampton. Andy had tried to convince Colleen that a 10k walk would be sufficient, but for Colleen, being Bradford City supporters meant there was only ever going to be one end-point: their beloved Valley Parade. The route, which crosses 6 counties, will see them pass eight other football club's grounds, where they hope to gather additional support. These are, in chronological order: Leicester City, Nottingham Forest, Notts County; Chesterfield, Sheffield FC, Sheffield United, Sheffield Wednesday and Barnsley.

Despite their grief, Colleen pays tribute to the strength and resilience of Joanne and the children, who have thrown themselves into planning and fundraising with her.

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She said: "They're warriors - even when they have been in the depths of grief, they have worked tirelessly to fundraise - because some people are unable to take part in the charity walk, they have even organised alternative events to raise money. They show grit and determination despite everything they are going through."

These alternative events have included the older children having wacky hair cuts and colours; taking part in a ghost-chilli eating challenge and waxing their boyfriend's legs, arms and armpits. The whole family has got involved too. Joanne and Colleen's Mum, Sue, has organised a charity fundraising night which will be taking place on April 19th at Thornhill Briggs Club in Brighouse, their sister-in-law, Kelly and Ellie's boyfriend Tommy, will be shaving their hair off live on Facebook on the 2nd April, and their brother Barry will be shaving off his lengthy, cherished beard at the charity night - much to his dismay and the family's delight. So far, they have raised almost £3000 for Andy's Man Club and are hoping to reach £4000, although they admit that donations have exceeded their expectations already.

Joanne and the children said: "We are grateful for the support and encouragement we are receiving, it is comforting to know that people care and that we can channel our grief in a positive way. We thank each and every person who is with us on this journey."

Colleen knows that although the walk will be physically and mentally difficult for them all, she believes that it will also be an opportunity for them to process the trauma that they have experienced over the last seven years.

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She said: "We all know there will be tears of laughter, sadness, anger, hurt and joy on this walk. Suicide leaves so many unanswered questions, a lot of guilt and often blame which can be so destructive. If we can help spread the word that it is okay for men to talk, that they aren't weak because they ask for help, and that there is a safe-space they can go to for support, we might just save one man's life. To think we could prevent another family going through the pain of losing a male relative to suicide is motivation enough."

For further information on the walk, or if you would like to join them on the route, the family have set up a Facebook group: Phil and Bill's Memory Walk.

For any man who wants to talk in a safe space, without fear of judgment, go to: Andy's Man Club | #ITSOKAYTOTALK | Andy's Man Club (

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