Achieving his £100,000 fundraising goal for the Masonic Charitable Foundation could make round-Britain Walker Chris Jones a record-breaker, because it's believed no-one else has contributed such a sum to Masonic Charity through their own individual efforts.
That's the prediction of the Masonic Charitable Foundation (MCF)'s Chief Executive Les Hutchinson, made when the two met face-to-face for the first time at our Provincial Grand Lodge meeting, though he agreed it would need to be confirmed.
And the milestone came a step closer to achievability when Provincial Grand Master Dave Wheeler called Chris out from the ranks of the Lodge Masters to give him a donation of £10,000, more than doubling the money already pledged on his fundraising page here. Chris paraded round the room to the Proclaimers' hit 'I'm Gonna Be (500 miles)' played by Provincial Organist David Shepherd, and applause which spontaneously synchronised with the music and Chris's footfall.
Before the walk started Chris had worked with Provincial Communications Officer Stuart Pearcey to set up the fundraising page, one of the first using a new MCF fundraising platform. Chris said:
'We talked about what target we should set, and we mentioned £25,000 and £50,000, but in the end I decided I should shoot for the Moon and set it at £100,000. With the wonderful and unexpected donation from the Province of Lincolnshire, the £9,000-plus pledged already, Gift Aid yet to be added, and lots of Provinces yet to visit, the total has become very much more realistic.'
It was a combination of circumstances which brought Chris and Les together at the Epic Centre at the Lincolnshire Showground. Chris was taking a break from his 7,500-plus mile solo walk to return for the Provincial Grand Lodge meeting and to install Andy Bagworth as his successor as Master of the Free Wheelers Lodge no. 9991; Les had been invited months before as guest of honour.
Chris embarked on his walk on New Year's Day in Skegness, determined to circumnavigate the country to raise awareness of mental health issues, and to raise funds to help sustain the MCF's work, which includes a counselling service he's credits with saving his own life when he was close to suicide. He is chronicling his journey in an entertaining blog with regular updates and a dedicated following of regular readers. His posts reveal how well he has been supported by Freemasons, who have given cash donations as well as inviting him to their meetings, offering accommodation, and walking alongside him. Read the posts here.
Les had been going mention Chris in his address to the meeting, but Provincial Grand Master Dave Wheeler asked him not to, so as not to dull the surprise of his presentation. Instead Les chose to shine the spotlight on Jason Baker of Industry Lodge in Scunthorpe, who is leading a team to tackle a brutal 10k assault course set up by some of the Army's toughest troops.
If you want to help support Chris in his incredible journey, you can donate on his fundraising page.