AWARE NI’s Giant Steps Event Gains Momentum with Heartfelt Testimonial from Three-Time Participant

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8th Mar 2024

AWARE NI, the mental health charity for Northern Ireland, is counting down to its annual fundraising Coastal Walk “Giant Steps” on Saturday, 27 April 2024.

One participant’s journey stands out as a testament to the event’s impact. Colin Ellis, a three-time Giant Stepper from Coleraine, shares his heartfelt story of resilience and community support.

Colin’s mental health journey has been marked with personal struggles – from battling alcohol dependency to navigating loss and major life changes.

Colin’s first encounter with AWARE NI’s Giant Steps occurred during a period of profound loss and upheaval. “I lost both my parents within seven weeks, and then COVID took my job,” he recounts. “It was the lowest I’d ever been.”

Despite his challenges, Colin’s path led him to find strength in the cause of mental health awareness. Colin pushed himself to engage with the world, taking walks and initiating conversations with others. This led to his participation in AWARE NI’s inaugural Giant Steps event in 2022.

Since then, the event has offered Colin a sense of purpose and belonging. “It’s been a way to push myself physically and mentally, raise funds for a fantastic cause, and do good for others,” he shares.

“During my first Giant Steps walk, I was initially planning on walking alone, but I met Philip on the shuttle bus to the start line, and we ended up walking the entire route together. We remain friends and have been walking since”, he added.

“The route itself is along one of the most beautiful coastlines in the country, whatever the weather,” Colin shares. “It has become my happy/safe space.”

Despite facing spinal surgery this year, Colin remains undeterred in his commitment to the cause by signing up to complete this year’s 20-mile route. “I’m not letting anything stop me from supporting AWARE NI – they do so much good for people who often have nowhere else to turn,” he shares. “It’s about standing tall to remind those in our community that asking for help is not a sign of weakness. I think it should be seen as a sign of strength.”

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 and provide a safe space where attendees can support each other and learn more about the illness and the treatments available. Groups enable people to share experiences and discuss self-help strategies and coping skills that will help in the recovery process. 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. The Coleraine Support Group meets fortnightly on Tuesdays at The Lodge Hotel at 7:30 pm.


Bridie Kelly, Community Fundraising Officer at AWARE NI, added, “Colin’s message resonates deeply with the ethos of AWARE NI’s Giant Steps – resilience, solidarity, and hope. His journey exemplifies the power of community support in overcoming mental health challenges. We’re immensely grateful that Colin and numerous others have continuously rallied to support us through this event – and we eagerly welcome more participants. Not only will it be a great day out, but the money raised will enable AWARE NI to continue to deliver our mental health and well-being programmes into communities, schools, colleges, universities and workplaces. Each participant will be rewarded with refreshments along the way and at the finish line, as well as a well-deserved medal.”


For more information and to register for AWARE NI’s Giant Steps, visit

“I encourage everyone to join in,” Colin urges. “You’ll meet great people, have great craic, and make a real difference.”