St Albans man's charity walk in memory of dad who died following heart attack

Callum Merrifield walked 130 miles across Herts.

Callum Merrifield walked 130 miles across Herts. - Credit: BHF

A St Albans man walked over 130 miles across the county to raise funds for the British Heart Foundation (BHF), in memory of his father who died suddenly.

Callum Merrifield, 24, was inspired to take on the challenge after his father Mark passed away in November last year, one day after his 54th birthday.

Mark Merrifield died at the age of 54.

Mark Merrifield died at the age of 54. - Credit: BHF

Mark collapsed at his home in Hemel Hempstead. A housemate found him unconscious and tried to resuscitate Mark using CPR, but sadly – despite their best efforts - nothing could be done to save him.

A post-mortem found that Mark had suffered a heart attack, which caused a sudden cardiac arrest. Callum was told the news of his dad’s death over the phone by his uncle.

“The initial reaction was pure disbelief,” said Callum.

“It came as a massive shock to us, because we were unaware if dad had any heart problems. It came completely out of nowhere.”

Callum had been able to see his dad earlier that week to celebrate his birthday, along with his sister and Mark’s daughter Jordanne, 26.

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Callum, who works in retail, added: “We went to the park and we had a good laugh together.

“I have a positive outlook on life, and for me I feel lucky that the last words I said to him were that I loved him, and the last memories I have are of us having a good time.

“Dad was such a good character and would make a joke and have a smile about anything. When I think about dad and how he’s not here anymore, it’s painful, but I have 23 years of amazing memories with him to look back on.”

Callum Merrifield walked 130 miles across Herts.

Callum Merrifield walked 130 miles across Herts. - Credit: BHF

Mark’s death came during the COVID-19 lockdown, at a time when Callum was furloughed from work. During lockdown, Callum had time to walk more often, and found it helped to take his mind off the grief.

He soon planned to do a charity walk, and chose to support the BHF after learning of its life saving research into heart and circulatory diseases.

Callum set himself a target to walk 120 miles in Hertfordshire over a week. Starting on a Monday, he covered the distance in areas such as Borehamwood, Hemel Hempstead, Hatfield and Welwyn. Callum managed to go beyond his target, clocking up 132 miles by the time he finished the challenge the following Sunday.

He has raised almost £1,700 for the BHF.

Callum added: “It feels amazing to have raised the amount I have. I didn’t have a set goal in mind of how much I wanted to raise, I just wanted to raise as much as I could.

“At the end of the walk, I felt a real sense of achievement and value, especially to do this in memory of my dad. It’s incredible to know that the money I have raised will help fund the BHF’s research.”

The BHF funds research into all heart and circulatory conditions, including heart attack, stroke and vascular dementia, and their risk factors such as diabetes and high blood pressure.

In Hertfordshire alone, around 113,000 people are living with heart and circulatory diseases – and sadly, every three hours, someone in the county tragically dies from one of these conditions.

Sarah Cunningham, BHF’s Fundraising Manager for Hertfordshire, said: “We are so touched that Callum decided to support the BHF, in this very personal challenge held in memory of his dad.

“The money he has raised will go towards our research to save and improve lives. Sadly, heart and circulatory diseases kill more than one in four people in Hertfordshire, so we desperately need to fund more research to find better treatments and preventions.

“We can only do this thanks to the generous support of people like Callum.”

Anyone interested in fundraising for the BHF can contact Sarah Cunningham, BHF’s fundraising manager for Herts, by emailing cunninghamsa@bhf.org.uk or calling 07741 640182.

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