Tracey Boxall of Grange Park will be bringing suicide prevention charity CALM's Lost Hours Walk campaign to Swindon.
Tracey will be taking part in a sponsored walk around Swindon with 25 other people in aid of the charity, CALM, next month.
CALM stands for Campaign Against Living Miserably. The charity aims to help those affected by suicide, or suicidal thoughts, and offer help to those struggling with their mental health.
The charity's latest statistics show that 125 people die by suicide every single week. That works out to around 600 people a month. CALM receive over 147,000 calls to its support helpline a year.
Tracey's son Alex 'Box' Boxall took his own life almost three years ago. The family received a call on 14 November 2019 to say that Alex had passed away.
He was 19 years of age.
Tracey said: "It was the middle of the night when we got that call, and it wasn’t anything we were expecting in any shape or form. It became really apparent really quickly that he had a massive circle of friends that wanted to do anything they could to help.
“He was happy and smily with loads of love and kindness to give. His death came out of nowhere. There was no indication he was having those thoughts, but one night he suddenly had a desire to end it all and made a drastic decision. I know he is gone, but I don't believe it sometimes.”
48 hours after the news of his passing, Alex's friends helped organise a gathering at Lydiard Park. Sky lanterns and candles were lit, and 250 people attended. His funeral then took place soon after, on 16 December.
Alex's friends also raised £10,000 for the charity MIND, in the short space of time before the funeral took place.
Tracey describes Alex as a young man who was 'full of life', who had 'an infectious smile' and who was 'kind and supportive of his friends and family.'
Not long after losing Alex, Tracey found out about the London-based charity CALM. She explained: "I came across the charity CALM in the August of 2020. A friend of mine had done a painting of Alex and I asked where I could donate some money, she passed me the details and information of CALM, and there started my relationship with the charity."
CALM runs an annual fundraising event called The Lost Hours Walk. The walk usually takes place on 29 October, to coincide with the clocks changing, and the UK experiencing a 'lost hour.' People who have been affected by suicide, or have themselves felt suicidal, can join together and walk to raise money and awareness.
Last October, Tracey organised her own Lost Hours Walk to take place in Swindon. She and nine other people walked ten miles around the town and raised just under £3,000 for the charity.
She recalls the story of her first fundraiser, saying: “I read up about the charity last year and found that they would be running The Lost Hours Walk on 29 October that year. I was diagnosed with a heart problem and was told that I had to stop all exercise and have a pacemaker and de-fib fitted. This was booked in for 10 October, but I was determined to do the charity walk.
“19 days later, I scaled down the walk route. We started at our family home - Alex’s home - in Grange Park and we walked in a small group of eight. There were some of his friends and some of my friends. We ended up down at his memorial bench at Lydiard Park to finish up. It took us four and a half hours."
Tracey said that her fundraising efforts could not be stopped by her heart condition, and the surgery, and added: "When I was on the operating table, and under anaesthetic, I must have been telling the heart surgeon and the nurse about the upcoming walk.
"Afterwards, I checked the JustGiving page and saw that the staff had donated £150! I couldn't believe it."
This year, Tracey will be conducting another Lost Hours Walk around the town, but on a bigger scale. She will be walking with a group of 25 people, and the group aim to cover 20 miles.
Tracey said: "This year, I plan to walk routes that are public and road-worthy so we can pass cars, dogwalkers, and strangers, and hand out charity leaflets and talk to them. We also plan to go into pubs and shops on the way and spread awareness further.
“I think it could take around eight and a half hours. I know I’m mad as a hatter but it’s for such an important cause. We will be wearing t-shirts, flashy lights and bright socks – anything bold. CALM colours are yellow and orange.
"I find these walks really uplifting, and I like that it is a positive thing. I do crash afterwards because it is tough, and it is very close to Alex’s anniversary and it takes everything out of me, but I wouldn’t change a thing.”
She will be joined by friends and supporters that will be travelling from Suffolk, London, Burton-on-Trent and other UK locations, as well as Swindon.
She has set up another JustGiving page where people can donate, and at the time of writing, she has raised £615.
Additionally, these sponsored walks to Tracey, are more than just a fundraiser for Alex.
She commented: “I don’t want to be selfish and say this walk is just for Alex, it’s more than that. This walk is for everybody who has lost somebody to suicide.
"I want to show people that we can all make a difference by talking, and coming together. I’m aware that if somebody hasn’t got a friend or somebody to talk to, or listen to them, it can go wrong really quickly.
"It did go really wrong for Alex, really quickly. I don’t believe his was a planned suicide in any shape or form. Something went really wrong that night and he didn’t know how to get himself out of it.”
With her fundraiser fully underway, Tracey says she is thankful to all those who have donated.
She added: “I would like to thanks my friends and family members that are supporting me, and I would encourage other people to set up their own Lost Hours Walk within their own community.
"I would also like to say how supportive the West Swindon community have been and thank people for this. I walk around my local streets and people always stop and talk to me and refer to me as ‘Alex’s mum.’ I’m really astonished by the support my family and I have received from my direct Grange Park community too.
"I am known as Alex’s mum here in the community, and I want to be approachable, and for people to feel they can come and talk to me.”
Tracey also wished to extend a message of thanks to local businesses that have supported her fundraiser.
She said: “I would also like to thank the manager of my local gym, The Village. His name is James and he has given me a hotel room for free to house the guests I have coming from further afield than Swindon. They have also put CALM posters up.
"I also have connections with the local printers Magic Touch. I would like to thank Ian for his kindness and for the printing of our t-shirts for the previous walk, and for this year’s walk.”
In addition to the Lost Hours Walks, Tracey and her family took part in CALM's 'The Lost Photo' exhibition that they held earlier this year, in June.
An image of Alex was displayed in an outdoor gallery in London, alongside a few words telling his story. The exhibition displayed the last images of a group of 50 individuals who all lost their lives to suicide.
Tracey said the charity's figures showed four billion people went to visit the exhibition and half a million of these visitors were recorded across two days. A record number of new hits to the charity's webpage was recorded as well as a 400% uplift in donations, during the week The Last Photo was available for the public.
More information about The Last Photo can be found at https://www.thecalmzone.net/thelastphoto
Tracey added: "It was one of the most proudest moments for me to see Alex up on the board at the gallery - to know his picture and story was up there raising awareness as part of this campaign for CALM. He was making a difference by being part of The Last Photo.
“I feed myself through this charity, and fundraising, and through talking about Alex – because why would I do anything different? I understand other’s people’s journeys after experiencing loss like mine might not be the same but this is what works for me – it makes me mentally stronger to be positive and take action.
"I do often wonder what Alex thinks about all what I do with the charity, but I think he would just say ‘that’s you mum – that’s what you do.’ I always need a project or something to keep me busy, and he always said to me ‘Mum, you’re really kind and caring.’ I remember him saying these words to me, and I think if I can help someone and make a difference to one person, then that’s enough.”
Tracey's JustGiving page for this year's fundraiser can be found at https://www.justgiving.com/fundraising/tracey-boxall
More information about CALM can be found on its website at https://www.thecalmzone.net/