A YOUNG Oxford United goalkeeper is doing his bit to raise awareness for mental health – and has received support from a former Premier League goalie.

During February, 11-year-old Jayden Garthwaite, from Carterton, will be out walking every day to raise awareness and hit his 100 kilometre target by the end of the month.

The youngster, who has been with the Oxford United academy since he was eight, is also head boy at St Joseph’s Catholic Primary School in Carterton.

Jayden has been inspired by former goalkeeper Chris Kirkland, who has been backing the ‘Walking is Brilliant’ campaign, which aims to get people both walking, and talking about their mental health.

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“I wanted to do it because I saw how many people are feeling low and sad during lockdown,” said Jayden.

“A lot of people suffer from mental health problems, and doing exercise really helps – it reduces stress and anxiety.

“I’ve missed exercise this last year, but I’ve been sticking to my routine and doing 5k runs.

“I saw Chris Kirkland responding to people on Twitter and talking to them on Zoom.

“Chris has been talking a lot about mental health and he’s quite an inspirational person to me.

“I’ve had Zoom calls with him and we talk about normal stuff like his experience and his football career.”

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Jayden’s mum, Dee Garthwaite, said her son has kept bumping up his fundraising target as donations continue to flood in.

“When Jayden told me what he wanted to do, I started up the fundraiser and the community and local businesses have been amazing, offering to sponsor him and help out,” she said.

“Jayden is very proud earning all this money, he initially went for £500, then £1,000, then £1,500 and he’s determined to keep going and keep raising the bar.”

Jayden said his ambition was to play for Oxford United and, ultimately England too.

Young Oxford United goalkeeper Jayden Garthwaite is raising awareness for mental health.02/02/2021.Picture by Ed Nix..

Young Oxford United goalkeeper Jayden Garthwaite is raising awareness for mental health. Picture by Ed Nix

“He’d been asked to go to a couple of clubs locally – Swindon, Cheltenham, Reading and Southampton, but a scout from Oxford came to watch him and then signed him on the day,” his mum said.

“He loves it, it’s quite intense and they train four times a week but what they instil in him and the values they put in him is exceptional.”

Helping spread the word of Jayden’s campaign is Mr Kirkland, a former Premier League goalkeeper who played for the likes of Liverpool and Wigan Athletic.

Mr Kirkland said: “What Jayden is doing is incredible and shows what a caring, down-to-earth lad he is, who has been brought up the right way.

“We at Walking is Brilliant are so grateful for what he’s doing to help our fundraising for NHS and mental health charities, and we can’t wait to meet him and his family on a walk when it’s safe to do so.”

So far, Jayden has raised almost £2,000, following his earlier £500 target.

To donate to the campaign, please visit Jayden’s JustGiving page.

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