Hundreds of people today joined Charlie Bird as he led a special Hand of Friendship Walk for Samaritans in his beloved Co Wicklow.
The sun shone down as Charlie, his wife Claire and their dog Tiger joined volunteers and supporters in Avondale Forest Park, Rathdrum.
The veteran broadcaster, who is battling Motor Neurone Disease (MND), vowed to continue his work raising awareness of the charity’s work and extending his hand as friendship as long as he is “mobile and alive”.
His wife Claire paid tribute to Charlie, calling him an inspiration to her and others after going through a “dreadful time” following his diagnoses with MND.
“Instead of Charlie shutting down shop, not leaving the house, he decided he was going to do something good with the horrors of having MND,” she said, highlighting the €3.6m he raised during Climb with Charlie last year.
“He decided after that, he wanted to continue working for a charity and he chose Samaritans – and they’re an amazing charity.
“He’s an absolute inspiration, not just to you, but to me as his wife. His courage, his resilience, he’s unbelievable
To donate to Samaritans visit www.charlieswalkoffriendship.
Mental health advocate Brent Pope was among the supporters who walked with Charlie, and paid tribute to his bravery and the difference he is making to people’s lives.
The Charlie Bird Hand of Friendship Walk with Samaritans was supported by Coillte, which opened forest routes around the country for the event.
While Charlie led a 5km forest trail in Wicklow, Samaritans volunteers walked simultaneously in Lough Key Forest Park, Roscommon; Curraghbinny Woods, Cork; and at Ard na Gaoithe, on the Galway/Mayo border, with members of the public.
A commemorative tree was planted at each site before the walk and a special message from Charlie was played to volunteers, supporters and members of the public.
He told supporters in Wicklow that after the success of Climb with Charlie last year he had made a promise to support another charity he’s alive and mobile, and Samaritans came into his head.
“During my working career I knew of six people who died by suicide, and I just wanted to raise awareness of the incredible work they [Samaritans] do,” he said.
“Samaritans’ volunteers are there to help people in dark places, 24 [hours] a day, seven days a week, 365 days a year. They are there at the end of their freephone line with what I call is their friendly non-judgmental ear.
“The truth is none of us know what might be around the corner of our lives.”
In recorded messages played at locations around the country, he told volunteers in Cork how his parents hailed from West Cork, and those in Galway how his final resting place will be on Inis Oírr, Aran Islands.
Charlie also sent supportive words to volunteers from Athlone and Sligo – in Lough Key Forest Park – and promised to visit them if he was well and mobile enough to do so.
Anne Vaughan, volunteer Branch Director with Dublin Samaritans, said the day was about raising awareness of Samaritans and encouraged anyone in darkness and despair to reach out for support by calling freephone 116 123 or email email@example.com. She also thanked Coillte and the staff at each site for their support on the day.
“I would like to thank Charlie Bird, his wife Claire and their dog Tiger who are some team,” Anne added.
“Last year, Charlie extended the Hand of Friendship to us in Dublin and said from the beginning that he wished to do so for all Samaritans and today is that day.
“To reach out and give your own precious time to others and raise awareness of Samaritans is a wonderful gift to all of us and we are very grateful. We will always remember with great warmth your hand of friendship, Charlie.”