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  • Writer's pictureLove Ballymena

Ballymena duo champion mental health awareness with 'Giant Steps' for AWARE NI

Ballymena duo Amanda Smyth and Keith McKay

Ballymena duo Amanda Smyth and Keith McKay

As AWARE NI gears up for its annual fundraising Coastal Walk ‘Giant Steps’ on Saturday, 27 April 2024, Amanda Smyth from Ballymena returns with a heartfelt mission.

Inspired by the positive impact AWARE NI had on a close friend, she aims to encourage others to join her in this meaningful event.

A dedicated supporter of AWARE NI and a three-time Giant Stepper, Amanda shares her heartfelt testimonial, shedding light on the impact of the event and the cause it supports.

"A close friend of mine struggles with his mental health and has been an AWARE NI service user for a number of years," Amanda explains. "Seeing the huge difference it has made to my friend's life, I am delighted to be able to support AWARE NI."

Amanda, an avid walker, found the Giant Steps event to be a perfect opportunity to combine her love for walking with her desire to support a significant cause. "When I heard about the first Giant's Steps event, I thought it was something I could do and enjoy, to raise money for an important cause," she says.

Teaming up with her work colleague, Keith McKay, Amanda embarked on the challenge of walking 13 miles and fundraising for AWARE NI. Keith shares his experience:

"Myself and Amanda regularly take a half-hour stroll at lunchtime to break up the day, so I decided that I would give it a go since I already enjoyed our short walks. To be able to raise money for a worthy cause made my decision even easier.

"The organisation and co-ordination of everything on the day of Giant Steps was second-to-none. And the route across the North Coast has the most spectacular scenery.”

Ballymena duo Amanda Smyth and Keith McKay - Aware NI

Reflecting on her past experiences, Amanda encourages others to join the cause.

"If you're on the fence about taking part, I can recommend a well-organised day in the outdoors, beautiful scenery, and a great sense of accomplishment when you cross the finish line!" she exclaims. "With the choice of 3 walks to suit many fitness levels as well, just GO FOR IT!"

Giant Steps participants can walk 7, 13, or 20 miles along the Causeway Coastline on Saturday, 27 April 2024. Participants are asked to pledge to raise a minimum of £50, with funds raised supporting those affected by depression, anxiety, and bipolar disorder in Northern Ireland through AWARE NI's services, including its network of mental health Support Groups located across the country.

These groups are open to anyone affected by poor mental health, depression, and bipolar disorder. They provide a safe space where attendees can support each other and learn more about the illness and available treatments. Groups enable people to share experiences and discuss self-help strategies and coping skills that will aid recovery.

While the groups are free to attend, each group costs AWARE NI approximately £135 a week to deliver, which is why fundraising from events like Giant Steps is so crucial.

To sign up or learn about AWARE NI's vital mental health services, visit


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