Alex Staniforth Wins Pride of Britain Award

Alex Staniforth Wins Pride of Britain Award

Alex Staniforth, who climbed 100 peaks in the UK in just 72 days, shares his experiences of going to the Pride of Britain Awards, and winning Regional Fundraiser of the Year for the North West.

There’s some moments in life you can never really plan for. The Pride of Britain Awards was one of those! I had the honour of winning the ‘Regional Fundraiser of the Year’ award for the Granada Reports (North West) region, and attending the final in London on 30th October.

Mental illness has affected me for several years, particularly depression, anxiety and bulimia. It’s so important to share these challenges, and having experienced them, there is simply not enough help available. I wanted to help fill this gap by raising money for YoungMinds to help young people get the voice they deserve. Through my challenge ‘Climb The UK’ this Summer I covered over 5,000 miles by bicycle, foot and kayak, climbing to the highest point of all 100 UK counties in 72 days. This raised over £24,000 for YoungMinds. I never imagined that climbing to the highest point of Norfolk would lead to this!

Only recently I wrote down some long-term goals and one was to win a Pride of Britain award – to prove to myself that I had made a significant difference in the world. You can imagine my surprise when ITV News burst into a coffee shop and presented me with the regional award whilst having lunch a couple of weeks ago. Mum deserved an award for keeping it a secret for an entire week!

The whole night could be summed up best by one word: unreal. Walking down the red carpet into Grosvenor House with flashing cameras and young kids jostling for autographs certainly made up for the exhaustion, eighteen-hour days, 120-mile bike rides, horizontal Scottish rain and saddle sores.

Paul Hollywood took a selfie with me and mum, I chatted to Olympian Greg Rutherford about running injuries, sat in Sharon Osbourne’s chair before Ozzy turned up, asked Noddy Holder whether it was Christmas yet, accidentally stood on Katie Piper’s dress, and obviously I wasn’t leaving without a photo with Holly Willoughby to tease dad back home! The A-listers treated us like the stars and we had an incredible three-course meal with some of the biggest legends in the country, from James Cracknell to Kelly Holmes, sat metres away, just like a normal restaurant. Jeremy Corbyn also tested me on the highest points of three counties which I answered correctly… I think.

I hoped to chat to Prince William about his mental health work and he had literally passed just inches away but sadly didn’t get the chance. But most inspiring of all were the other award winners. To meet a room of people who had defied adversity and raised millions was a real privilege and I couldn’t believe I was there too. One of them is walking 300 miles home from the awards to raise even more money! Although disappointed I didn’t win the overall award out of the 17 ITV regional finalists, it went to Jake Coates, one of the bravest and most humbling people I have ever met.

We don’t fundraise for recognition, but being recognised like this just gives us more fire to keep making a difference. The stories of the awards ceremony itself made us cry, laugh and proud to be British. Often we only hear about the bad stories but Pride of Britain reminds us of the amazing things that we never even hear about.

During Climb The UK I was blown away by all the support I received. I also discovered how widespread mental illness is, but also the incredible generosity of so many people across the UK. I cannot thank you enough for your support in changing lives.

Our award was the last of the evening, and once we finished with a chorus of ‘All You Need Is Love’ (SPOILER ALERT!) the after-party continued until the early hours, being interviewed and mingling with the celebrities once again. I wasn’t going to sleep anytime soon anyway.

Everything felt like a weird dream as we headed home to normality. Hours later I was speaking at an event in Liverpool to raise awareness for hidden disabilities. Mental illness is a prime example.

Looking at the award on the mantelpiece will give me a real boost through my own low points and struggles, but I’ve come home inspired that there is so much more I need to do.

So… in a couple of weeks I’ll be cycling from home to Edinburgh, over 300 miles, in a target of 24 hours. I’m hoping to push my current fundraising total over the £25,000 mark. Why? To show others through physical challenges that mental illness isn’t a weakness, and talking about it is the greatest sign of strength.

Thanks again to everyone for your support and words of encouragement, I’m truly grateful.

Follow Alex on his journey

Twitter: @alex_staniforth

Instagram: @alexstaniforth_

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