A bus driver from Widnes spent his week off walking the entire length of seven bus routes to raise money for struggling customers.
Big-hearted Neil Atherton, 41, based at Arriva’s Runcorn depot, completed seven walks in seven days, covering 150 miles in total – equivalent to walking from Liverpool One to Luton town centre.
At time of writing, the “Cirque du Sore Legs” fundraiser had collected more than £4,300 for the Trussell Trust, which runs foodbanks around the country.
He said it became clear to him in recent months that some of his customers are struggling in dire poverty and “have nothing” who “need the help more than ever”.
Supported along the way by rotating teams of colleagues, family members and friends, Neil completed the 110, 61, 79C, 82A, X30, 3A, and the Runcorn 1 busway circular, pressing through the pain barrier thanks to having different people talking to him.
They took him from Runcorn to Chester, Liverpool city centre via Speke, Liverpool via Whiston, Liverpool via Widnes and Cronton, and on a figure of eight around Runcorn.
The routes were all seven of Arriva's services running out of its Beechwood depot in Runcorn.
After completing the feat, he also received a message from Metro Mayor Steve Rotheram hailing his "fantastic" feat.
Neil has previously won the national Arriva 'Made a Difference' and 'Ultimate Champion' bus driver of the year award.
He said after completing the challenge on foot, which took eight hours, he realised how long the routes, which usually take two and a half hours on bus, actually were.
However despite his knees still recovering from the challenge, Neil is already hatching plans for his next fundraiser - a charity raffle with prizes including a baseball bat signed by European Cup and Premier League-lifting Liverpool FC skipper and England international Jordan Henderson.
The idea for the walk hatched about a month ago during a conversation with a relative - pre-empting the wave of awareness about food poverty inspired by England international and Manchester United footballer Marcus Rashford.
He said: “Because of the job I do, we serve communities, we see things.
“They were going a bit wrong, I could see it.
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“I’ve got a 16-year-old daughter - luckily me and my wife work and we’ve got family support from my mum and dad and her mum and dad.
“People say things like ‘well they’ve got phones’ - these kids have got nothing.
“It’s a travesty what’s going on in the world.
“Thank God people are looking out for each other.”
Thanking his support team he said: “Without them it couldn’t have been done, especially towards the middle.
“They got me through it, I’m so thankful.
“It was more the conversations, we had different people every day with different stories.
“It kept me mentally fit every day.”
Neil added: “The walk was hard, my legs are in agony, but I’m so glad I did it.
“I’ve managed to raise over £4,000 – which is just amazing, and it’s helped raise awareness of food poverty in the Liverpool City Region.
“I’d like to say thank you so much to the people of Merseyside for their enormous generosity and to everyone who supported me along the way.
“Your encouragement got me through and made me realise that even though times are hard, the unbelievable kindness of the people of Merseyside will get us through the other side.”
Neil also thanked his “amazing” support team: Angela Atherton, Gill Mercer, Sharron Bellfield, Arriva's managing director for engineering in the North Phil Cummins, Sophie Cummins, Mark Wady, Stephen McCann, Neil Egerton, Bob Antrobus, Ian Walker, Alan Pedley, John Cobourne, “main man” Tommy Hanratty, Gary Robertson, Mark Atherton, Paul Darlington, Alan Ratchford, Michael Dally, John Hollins, Antony Caldwell, Alfie Nickson, Mark Boswell, Colin Stewart, Andy Clarke, Danny Smith and Jay Drummond.
Donate to Neil’s fundraiser at his justgiving page here.
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