A SOUTH Belfast pensioner who set out to raise awareness of the charity Lifeline has just completed 8,000 miles around Belfast to mark his seventieth birthday.
Fleming Keery from Carryduff originally set out to walk 3,000 miles for the charity after being moved by stories of young people who had died through suicide.
Explaining how the walks came about, Fleming said: “In the years 2018 and 2019 I took part in a lot of walks for many different charities.  I did the walking and my wife, Anne paid the agreed monies.  I must admit as 2019 rolled on I was becoming frustrated at how walks for charity seemed to be money orientated more than awareness.

“During early 2020 I was watching our local news programmes and noted two high profile politicians demonstrating their hurt and frustration at the increasing number of people making very sad decisions regarding their lives. 

“The next morning I made contact with the offices of the two politicians and asked the question ‘Can you tell me of an organisation that would benefit from me walking various areas for x miles whilst wearing their branded attire?’

“Within one hour one politician’s representative was discussing and confirming the approved layout of Lifeline branding.  So you see, it wasn’t me who picked the orange colour but I have to say it sure attracts people’s awareness of Lifeline.”

For Fleming, these walks have also been about improving his own fitness. In 2015 he suffered an accident at work and was deemed lucky to be alive. 

“Initially I was diagnosed with a metatarsal fracture and fitted with a medical boot.  From day one my balance was questionable and as the days went on, I struggled to lie, sit, stand or walk” he said.

“As time passed, I went for CT scans.  The results really concerned my local GP who made arrangements for me to immediately attend a specialist consultant and subsequent MRI scans.  

"I will remember for the rest of my life when the Consultant phoned me to say you have had a dissected artery, you are a miracle, you should have died, failing death, you should have had a major stroke, the real miracle – you have self-healed.  This is truly a miracle.  

“At this point I decided I should forget the idea of working on until I was 70.  I should point out I was over 18 stone in weight.

“During the years 2016 and 2017 I just kept trying to improve my mobility to the point where me and my walking stick parted company and went on our own way.”

When it came to deciding the routes, Fleming chose sixteen routes ranging from 10 to 17 miles that he would walk each day, alternating routes each week. 

The routes took him through the streets of Belfast, Belfast to Lisburn, North, East, South and West Belfast, Belfast to Bangor and back, Belfast to Carrickfergus and back, Divis and Blackmountain, Belfast to Glengormley and back, Drumbo/Carryduff hills and both ways of the Comber Greenway.

“I remember one Sunday morning walking up Divis and Blackmountain at 5:15am when I was met by two ladies who I was talking to a few days earlier,” he said.

“I got the shock of my life when each lady offered me £10 each for Lifeline. I thanked them and explained my walking was for awareness only and not money!”

Once he had completed his 3,000 miles, Fleming knew he had to keep going and contacted his local councillor, Michelle Guy from the Alliance Party. 

“Following the 3,000 mile walk I had a long discussion with our local politician Cllr Michelle Guy and I advised her that I would like to carry on to the 8,000 mile target,” he continued. 

“Both Cllr Guy and I agreed that distinct areas of walks repeated for 100 times each would much more increase awareness of Lifeline.  We decided two areas in Carryduff and one area around the Four Winds, Newtownbreda.”

Recounting his time on the walk, Fleming added: “I have greeted every person I have met and I have chatted to anyone who wanted to talk. Some people have shared truly inspiring stories."