CORK Penny Dinners were thrilled to have a visit from ‘Speedo Mick’, who is on a 3,200km (2,000-mile), five-month trek across Ireland and the UK. He is donating to a number of local charities along the way.
As well as raising funds, he has been donating to charities and good causes, through his charity, the SpeedoMick Foundation.
One of his selected charities was Cork Penny Dinners, who were “over the moon” to get a visit from the Liverpool man, real name Michael Cullen, but better known as ‘Speedo Mick’.
“Sure, we’re over the moon,” said Caitriona Twomey, of Cork Penny Dinners.
“He’s a survivor. He’s very courageous in what he is doing and going around and spreading the word about his foundation and giving back the way he gives back.
“He has a great back story himself — a hard, tough one — but he has come out the other end of it, so, I suppose, we in Penny Dinners would see that happening in our recovery meetings, and stuff like that, and helping people get back on their feet. It’s a beautiful thing he’s doing.”
Ms Twomey said it is always nice to get more money for Penny Dinners, “but, as Mick himself said, it’s not about the money, it’s more about the time that we share with each other”.
“I think that kind of epitomises us, as well. We’re all about the heart and the love,” she said.
The latest leg of Speedo Mick’s tour commenced in Cork on Friday.
The mission of the SpeedoMick Foundation is to provide support for young people through education, poverty relief, or mental and physical health support.
“What Mick is doing now is he’s sharing his story, sharing his time, raising his money to help others…and bringing a bit of fun and craic to it,” said Ms Twomey.
Speaking ahead of his journey to Cork, Speedo Mick told The Echo.
“I was the hopeless case sitting in the doorway,” Mr Cullen said. “I suffered from addiction, self-loathing, and everything else that went with that. I could never say I fought back, but what I did do was surrender. I surrendered to someone else’s idea of how to live.
“[Now]I try to give away as much as possible. However, it’s me who gets back the spiritual dollars. This walk isn’t just about fundraising. It’s about raising smiles and connecting with people.”
Mr Cullen said he could never have envisioned himself wearing Speedos among friends, never mind publicly. “Before, when I was told I could only swim the Channel wearing Speedos, I refused and tried to persuade them to let me wear my shorts, instead,” Mr Cullen said. “We’ve all had those dreams where we find ourselves in public in our underwear, but this is what I’m doing every day. It’s all about the power of being vulnerable.
“I’d like to encourage as many people as possible to open up and be vulnerable, too.”
Speedo Mick’s charity, Leave the Light On, runs community projects for disadvantaged people of all ages and has an emphasis on mental health and positivity.
The Everton FC fan will clock up more than 1,000 miles on his journey and also hopes to meet relatives. “I have cousins in Cork, who I’m really looking forward to meeting,” Mr Cullen said.
The Liverpool native has been overwhelmed by the positive reaction from strangers.
“There are people who say, ‘You have made such a difference to me’ and ‘Do you mind if I walk with you?’ One woman told me that I saved her life, after she heard me talking on the radio, and that meant so much. Every day you don’t talk to someone, that weight you are carrying around gets heavier. That’s why I’ve been picking up a stone to put in my bag every day of the walk,” Mr Cullen said.
“It’s a good reminder of what that extra weight can feel like. My bag has become very heavy now, but this is nothing compared to what people are carrying around, because of reasons like a fear of rejection.”
- Anyone wishing to donate to Speedo Mick’s Giving Back Tour can do so by visiting his GoFundMe page.