The father of Oxford United star Cameron Brannagan has revealed the personal heart-break that has inspired him to take part in the Yellow Army walk for charity.
Mark Brannagan, 50, is putting on his walking boots and taking part in the special charity walk to commemorate Oxford United’s 125th anniversary in memory of close friend Jamie Horrocks.
When Mark discovered the walk was to raise funds for two charities that support mental health and well-being he had no hesitation in signing up – and has appealed to people to donate what they can afford.
He said: “I lost a very good friend, Jamie, to suicide. He was an absolute hero, but underneath his smiles he was silently struggling. I’m walking in honour of Jamie and to raise awareness of mental health issues in the UK.”
Mark is joining fans to walk from the Britannia Inn, Headington, where the club was formed, to its current home the Kassam Stadium on Saturday to raise funds for Oxford United in the Community and Oxfordshire Mind.
His son Cameron, who plays for United has held a collection of the first team squad to boost the sponsorship campaign for the walk.
Mark said: “It’s all about education and breaking down barriers. If we can spot the signs better, or if people can feel they can ask for help without being judged it will help.
“At one-point Jamie was nominated for a Pride of Britain Award for bravery after he saved people following a gas explosion. That was the calibre of Jamie he was a fine man and I am fortunate to have known him.
“But six months later he committed suicide. He had been struggling to cope and no-one knew. He drank more alcohol, but he was always smiling and never let on, or asked for help. Things got so bad for him that he took his own life. If only he’d asked someone for help, then he might still be here today. It was such a waste of a life, he thought he was worthless – but he was the total opposite.
“Mind were brilliant at helping the family and provide vital support to so many people. I’ve also learned a lot about Oxford United’s charity recently and the important work they do in the community, particularly their mental health programmes. It’s fantastic that they’re using football to help people.
“If I can help encourage people to donate what they can afford it will help two brilliant charities help people who need it.
“And if Jamie’s story can encourage one person who is struggling to ask for help then the walk will have been worth every second.”
Oxford United in the Community is the football club’s official charity and its dedicated team helps inspire youngsters to reach their potential and improve their health and wellbeing via the power of football, engagement and education.
Kate Longworth, CEO of Oxford United in the Community, said: “Jamie’s story is so powerful and really does highlight why it’s so important that we all keep working hard to help people in our community. Mental health is a huge problem in the local area, particularly among children. On behalf of everyone at Oxford United’s charity I want to extend a huge thank you to Mark for taking part and for being so honest to help raise awareness.”
Oxfordshire Mind is part of the network of Mind associations working for better mental health across England and Wales. 1 in 4 of us will experience a mental health problem at some point in our lives and suicide is the most common cause of death for men aged 20-49 years in England and Wales.
Leanne Merritt, Community Fundraiser of Oxfordshire Mind, said: “Oxfordshire Mind would like to say a very big thank you to Mark and The Yellow Army for choosing to support us. As a charity, Oxfordshire Mind relies on the donations of our supporters and fundraisers to help us develop our work.”
From the start of the 2018/19 football season, Mind became the EFL’s new Official Charity Partner with a goal to enhance and improve the way that football, sport and society approaches mental health and will seek to increase awareness and understanding amongst fans, clubs and staff alike.
If you’d like to take part in the walk, contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org
If you would like to make a donation online, then just visit www.justgiving.com/campaign/YellowArmy125
You can donate by text and you can donate whatever amount you want, by putting the amount in the text message.
So to donate £3 just text “OUFC18 £3” to 70070.
If you want to donate £5, then text “OUFC18 £5“.
For a donation of £10, it’s “OUFC18 £10” and so on.