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Rowing for better mental health

Phil-Packer-Row-Britannia-Boat and members of University's Saints-Sport Boat Club

Charity campaigner and fundraiser, Phil Packer, was in St Andrews yesterday as part of his latest fundraising campaign, Row Britannia, to help students and young people.

An inclusive (adaptive sport) challenge, Row Britannia, encourages teams throughout the UK to row 2020 miles to raise vital funds and increase positive awareness of mental health issues for students and young people. Each team has a target of £3000 to raise before Sport Relief on 13 March 2020.

The British Inspiration Trust (BRIT), which is running the campaign, says if every university and college in the UK registers a team and takes part, the challenge would raise £1.5m for Sport Relief.

Phil has also challenged every University Committee Chair, Vice-Chancellor and College Principal to match the team fundraising target to raise vital funds for a collaboration of mental health charities which support student mental health. If they rise to the challenge it would raise a further £1.5m to support student and young people’s mental health.

Members of the University of St Andrews Boat Club have already signed up for the challenge and welcomed Phil to the University’s Sports Centre yesterday (Tuesday 19 November).

As part of his tour of the UK promoting the challenge, Phil dropped into the University’s Sports Centre with the Row Britannia Ocean Row Boat and Poppy, his Assistance Dog.

Phil has forged partnerships with, amongst many others, Sport Scotland, the Scottish Sports Association, Scottish Student Sport, Colleges Scotland, Universities UK, the NUS, British Universities and Colleges Sport (BUCS) and the Committee of University Chairs. Every CEO is supporting Row Britannia.

Phil, who is also CEO of BRIT, said: “Students and young people have very different challenges to those of previous generations. In today’s world of social media, it is very easy to become isolated and students away from home, together with facing the pressure of exams, can feel very alone.

“We should be giving as much support to young people as we can, and we hope our Row Britannia challenge will bring people together and raise much needed funds to support good mental health.”

Jodie Cameron, President of the University of St Andrews Boat Club, said: “We recently elected a welfare team to raise awareness of mental health in sport, so Row Britannia represents a cause already close to our hearts.

“It’s been a privilege and a pleasure to meet Phil and we have all been inspired to complete the challenge before the March deadline.”

Participants have until Sport Relief Day on 13 March next year to row the 2020 miles. Sporting icons and mental health ambassadors will join Phil on later visits to universities and colleges throughout the four-month challenge.

Olympians, Paralympians, British sporting icons, Invictus Games athletes, adventurers and explorers are giving their time to support Row Britannia by visiting host university and college locations.

Phil has already raised millions of pounds to help people overcoming adversity, whether it be physical disability, mental or physical trauma.

In 2012 he walked 2012 miles throughout the UK to raise awareness for his charity and mental health. With his spinal injury, a mile is equivalent to three to four miles for someone without a spinal cord injury. He walked the equivalent of 310 marathon distances in 331 days during which time he was hosted by the University of St Andrews, walking with students and staff.

In 2009 Phil was awarded the Pride of Britain Fundraiser of the Year Award and the BBC Sports Personality of the Year Helen Rollason Award. He was made an MBE in 2010.

Seriously injured while serving with Her Majesty’s Armed Forces in 2008, Phil suffered severe spinal cord injuries and was told it was highly unlikely he would walk again.

Less than a year after his injury, Phil rowed the English Channel, climbed El Capitan over four days and completed the London Marathon on crutches over 14 days. His efforts raised £1.3m for wounded ex-service men and women.

In 2010 Phil founded the charity the British Inspiration Trust (BRIT) with the aim of supporting young people facing trauma and adversity.


Photo caption (left to right) are Monty Jones, Lilli Nadol, Sanne Van Den Berg, Chloe Mosonyi, Florence Macauley, Emily Haworth, Jodie Cameron, Alice Vine, Annie Wilkens and Sam Winton of the Boat Club, Assistance Dog Poppy, Phil Packer, University Athletics Union President Leah Allcock and Director of Saints Sport Stephen Stewart.

Issued by the University of St Andrews Communications Office.

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