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Hollywood stars back Stags fan in a bathtub

Posted onPosted on 1st Apr

Inspirational Huthwaite dad John Bell received star backing as he completed a marathon walk in memory of his teenage son.

John walked 140 miles from the One Call Stadium home of Mansfield Town to Wrexham FC, ahead of the Good Friday match between the two League Two promotion chasers, backed by others along the way.

He was dressed as Deadpool from the Marvel Comics series — the favourite character of his son, Jake, who died in 2020, aged 15 — for the seven-day trek.

To help him cope with the tragedy, John set up a walking group. The project grew and last year John and his friend, Chris Atkinson, who is also a bereaved father, set up the charity Walking 4 Hope.

It offers organised walks and a conversation group, designed to bolster mental fitness and improve wellbeing. The charity’s work is supported by fundraising through special events, challenges, and sponsorship.

John’s walk between the two football clubs inside a special bathtub made national headlines and was supported by Wrexham’s Hollywood star owners Ryan Reynolds and Rob McElhenney — Ryan plays Deadpool in the latest film, Deadpool & Wolverine.

They donated £15,000, invited John to watch the new Deadpool & Wolverine film together, and Ryan messaged John during his fundraising walk.

“I’m just speechless to be honest,” said John. “The support from Rob and Ryan, as well as Carolyn and John Radford (Mansfield Town owners) has been unreal. It has all exceeded anyone’s expectations.”

Walking 4 Hope aims to raise awareness and support young people, families, and bereaved parents.

John explained how he put all his efforts into fundraising after the death of his son.

The former soldier said: “I had to find a way to live. I learnt to do that by cultivating that love I’ve got for my son.

“I started doing extreme hiking challenges as a way to push myself physically and to strengthen my mindset.”

As well as his Deadpool costume, he tackled the walk, which saw him call in at football clubs along the way, carrying a bathtub as a visual representation of the unseen burden people can carry with them.

On the bath’s rim were rubber ducks, each representing a lost loved one of a family now supported by the charity.

“I went through a very dark period after my son’s death, seeking some kind of solace in nature as I struggled to come to terms with my grief,” John added.

“There were times when I couldn’t see a way forward, but ultimately I chose hope, and that’s how the charity got its name.”
Hollywood star Ryan said: “John’s story is an incredible testament to his strength and capacity to turn pain into action.”

For more information about Walking 4 Hope and how to support John and the charity, go to