The drive to honour his best pal will carry an Angus man on a 24th birthday marathon journey this weekend.
Arbroath’s Ethan Bell used running to help him through the loss of Bailey Menmuir, the 21-year-old who was like a “wee brother” to him.
Sadly, Bailey’s reputation as the life and soul of every gathering masked the mental health struggles which led to him taking his own life.
Ethan has already raised more than £4,000 for the Mental Health Foundation through an “amazing” response from the local community.
It mirrors the depth of feeling which surrounded the disappearance of the popular footballer and youth team coach, also known as Bailey Mearns, at the beginning of last year.
Tragically, following an agonising five-day search, his body was discovered on land just hundreds of yards from his home on January 10.
The loss stunned the town and friends packed St Andrew’s Church for Bailey’s farewell.
A crowd-funder for Bailey’s funeral and to support mental health charities passed its £10,000 target within hours of being set up.
And the #Forever21 tag adopted by his countless pals has remained a symbol of their love for Bailey as they continue to promote the mental health message.
Ethan is aiming for an early morning start to the 26-mile Saturday loop out of the town and into the Angus countryside.
“I started running during lockdown last March to help me through the very strange time in my life after losing Bailey,” said Ethan.
“I found myself sitting around most nights doing nothing, so running got me out doing something.
“It gave me a lot of time to reflect, but it also helped me because you always feel better after being out for a run,” said Ethan, who works at Interplex PMP in Arbroath.
“Gradually I’ve been working my way up to longer distances and decided to do the virtual Edinburgh marathon.
“I thought it was a good way to mark my 24th birthday, and to do it for Bailey.
“I want to raise as much as I can to help a service which is so greatly underfunded and needed now more than ever.”
Part of the family
Emotion around the loss of his best pal remains raw, but Ethan recalls their many good times together.
“He was just so funny,” said Ethan.
“Bailey was always round at ours and he became like part of the family.
“It was like having a wee brother.”
Tragically, behind the happy-go-lucky façade lay the difficulties which led to the situation that shocked the town.
Ethan added: “We knew he was struggling with things.
“But for other people they were so shocked because he was always the life of the party.
“He made sure everyone else was ok, but he just hid so much in his own head as well.”
Ethan said: “Something like this changes your perspective.
“I like the idea of being able to help someone else from possibly being in a situation like Bailey.
“I just want people to feel the best that they can.
“This whole experience has taught me that it’s fine to be vulnerable, and it’s fine to have a bad day.
“It’s okay not to be okay – but you need to let people know if that’s how you’re feeling as well.”
Ethan has been stunned by the response to the fundraiser.
“I was a wee bit worried I wasn’t going to hit my initial target of £600.
“I’m just astonished by how much has come in and it is sitting at more than £4,000. I am just so grateful to everyone who has donated.”
You can support Ethan’s fundraiser here.