Wirral author Natalie Reeves Billing has pledged to donate all profits from her new children’s book, which comes out in October, to charity.
The children’s author will be donating profits from the publication of ‘Bernie and Boatie’ in support of Boat of Hope, an ambitious project to support children’s mental health in which Bernie Hollywood OBE will row solo across the Atlantic to raise over £1m for charities including the Samaritans.
Natalie’s book will be published on 12 October to coincide with an unveiling ceremony for the Boat of Hope in London and a prestigious Liverpool launch event on the same date.
Natalie said that supporting Boat of Hope, which has already attracted high profile fellow supporters including Melanie C (who will be the lead narrator for a ‘Bernie and Boatie’ trailer) has shown her “just how much can be achieved when people pull together.”
The author is the Early Years and Primary ambassador for the Boat of Hope project, so will be coordinating with schools and organisations to reach as many young children as possible.
The Samaritans receives around 10,000 calls a day from people seeking help and Natalie said, “People coming together and donating their time to support a charity that helps people in emotional distress feels really significant right now.”
“This is a unique opportunity to show the world how Merseyside can lead the way in helping children navigate mental health.
“As a children’s author and the founder of a social enterprise that supports children and young people in the local community, I’ve seen first hand how children can be more withdrawn and lacking in confidence since the pandemic. For some children, they’ve lost their joy. I’m passionate about helping families tackle the subject of mental health using storytelling as a form of catharsis, so supporting Boat of Hope felt like a really good way of making a contribution.”
As well as donating the profits from her new book, Natalie also plans to create ‘Builder Boat’ boxes filled with materials that will help to inspire children’s creativity and ignite conversations about mental health. Natalie and her team will give these boxes away locally via social enterprise, Split Perspectivz, as part of their well-received Builder Book literacy project.
Bernie is due to begin his Boat of Hope row in December 2022 and a series of events and activities have been planned in the run-up to his charity quest.
Primary school children in Merseyside will have an opportunity to make their own contribution by submitting a piece of artwork showing what hope means to them. Their pieces will be entered into a competition and 10 lucky winners will have their artwork prominently displayed within an iconic Liverpool building.
Natalie urged children and their parents to keep checking the Boat of Hope website for information on how they can get involved and help spread the word, and for updates on how to enter the competition, which will launch on 26 October, at the same time as the author’s book launch.
Natalie concluded, “There are lots of exciting activities planned around the Boat of Hope build-up and my book launch is just one of them. I feel very proud to have had the opportunity to get involved with Bernie’s quest, which I think is going to make a difference to a lot of people – not just raising a significant sum of money for charity, but also putting the focus on the issue of mental health, which I think is timely at a point where people of all ages are dealing with the impact of the pandemic.”