‘Power of these knickers’: Speedo Mick nears last leg of UK charity walk

Michael Cullen is nearing the end of his 2,000-mile Giving Back Tour to support groups that have helped him over the years. Better known as Speedo Mick because he wears only a pair of swimming trunks, Cullen is walking around the UK and Ireland to raise money for causes close to his heart such as homelessness, disadvantaged children and mental health.

The weather has not been kind in recent weeks. He has had to battle storms Arwen and Barra in his journey across the north of England, and was almost swept out to sea in Morecambe.

“I’ve been in the Outer Hebrides, I’ve been in Scotland in -6C, and none of it beat me to put my clothes on – but it was Morecambe that put all the doubts in my mind,” Cullen said. “I nearly got blown off the seafront at Morecambe – me and [a statue of] Eric Morecambe nearly got blown away, it was that powerful and strong.”

On Friday’s walk a rainbow, to match his multi-coloured scarf, provided a metaphor of hope for the lifelong Everton supporter, who has previously struggled with addiction, spent time on the streets and had mental health issues.

His swimming cap has been replaced by a deerstalker and he runs to ensure he keeps warm in the worst conditions. Cullen has been spurred on by people who join him for legs of the walk and well-wishers at the side of the road, in addition to messages of support from the likes of Wayne Rooney.

“A big funeral procession is going past and they all have their windows open, all beeping, all smiling, on a day when they are going to bury a loved one,” Cullen said as he walked near Chorley on Friday. “This is the power of these knickers. I know it sounds bizarre but it gives people relief, just a few moments to stop thinking about any worries. The best part of this is to see the smiles and laughing in the cars – it fills my world with joy.”

The tour, which has taken Cullen from Stornoway in Scotland to Portsmouth via Donegal, will conclude in his home city of Liverpool next week. Cullen is well known for his fundraising, previously walking from Liverpool to Lyon, among other efforts. He has raised £126,760 during his current walk and given out £193,000 to 83 small charities across the UK and Ireland along the way from money previously donated.

“I’ve been homeless, I’ve struggled with my mental health and addiction. I got the support I needed over 19 여러 해 전에. I am 19 years clean and sober, I’ve got my self-respect and dignity back … well I don’t know about my dignity,” Cullen said. “I’ve got my family and a roof over my head, I’ve got my life back and I am able to do this stuff. This is a dream come true.

“I am trying to let people know that there is a way out. You can find the door. I couldn’t find the door … and I tried to take my life a couple times in those 20 years of addiction. I never had any hope. This is what the story is about, it’s about hope. Hope lives in the darkest places; you don’t think it’s there but it is.”

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