Wirral children’s author Natalie Reeves Billing is counting down to the Boat of Hope naming ceremony, which will take place at Liverpool’s Maritime Museum today, 26 October.
Natalie is the Early Years Ambassador for Bernie Hollywood’s Boat of Hope challenge, for which he’ll row 3,000 nautical miles alone to raise £1 million for mental health charities.
The Boat of Hope naming ceremony will be attended by Bernie Hollywood and a host of high-profile figures including Metro Mayor, Steve Rotheram; Mayor of Liverpool, Joanne Anderson, and Liverpool’s Lord Mayor, Mary Rasmussen, and Natalie anticipates that it will be an emotional event for her.
Natalie wrote her new children’s book ‘Bernie and Boatie’, from which she’s donating all profits to the Boat of Hope’s official charities, The Samaritans and Love Rowing, to support Bernie’s epic quest. The book has been narrated by Melanie C and has also been put to music to be performed as a sea shanty at the Liverpool naming ceremony.
The author said, “To imagine being in the place where I grew up, surrounded by friends, to watch the naming ceremony and hear the words from my book being performed as a sea shanty is just overwhelming! Thinking of all those people singing something that I’ve helped to direct, and which I’ve invested so much time and love into is incredible.”
Natalie said Bernie Hollywood’s mission to bring hope to young people battling with mental health issues through Boat of Hope is particularly close to her heart because of her own experience of depression in her teens.
She said, “At 18, I was living in a bedsit and things got so bad that I didn’t open the curtains or see anyone for about three weeks. I barely ate and I wasn’t looking after myself. I was lucky enough to come through that period, but it’s left me feeling that I don’t want anyone else to go through that alone.
“I’m passionate about reaching as many children as possible to open up a conversation about depression, and I’ve found launching ‘Bernie and Boatie’ much more nerve-wracking than launching my other books, because it’s not just about me – it’s about trying to raise as much money as possible to support children’s mental health initiatives and reaching as many families as I can.”
‘Bernie and Boatie’ is available to purchase via Amazon, with all profits from the sale of the book going to charity. The book is available as a paperback for £7.99 or for Kindle for £3.49.
Image credit: Oolay Stone 2021. From left to right: Manchester mural artist, Justin Eagleton, Minister for Care and Mental Health, Gillian Keagan MP, Natalie Reeves Billing, Cbeebies presenter, Gyasi Sheppy, and Bernie Hollywood OBE.