Irish Sea charity row makes waves to raise thousands for suicide prevention

Gareth Parry Owen used to spend "hours" at sea taking part in various water sports

A group of friends have raised more than £45,000 for a mental health charity by rowing 130 miles across the Irish Sea.

They took on the challenge in memory of their friend, Gareth Parry Owen, from Anglesey, who took his own life last year at the age of just 38.

Channeling their grief into something positive, his friends wanted to commemorate Gareth's "adventurous spirit" with an incredible fundraising effort, Row4Gaz.

The Row4Gaz team set off on Tuesday morning on a round trip from Holyhead to Dublin.

The crew set off on Tuesday morning and managed to finish well below their target time of 36 hours

Initially they had hoped to complete the challenge in under 36 hours, but arrived back at Holyhead well ahead of schedule, in under 30 hours.

"Gareth was a very popular guy" said his brother, Tudur Owen. "He would light up any room he walked into."

Tudur, from Anglesey, added: "The sea was Gareth's happy place. He spent hours wakeboarding or kitesurfing. Thanks to sailing, he had friends in every corner of the world and there are a lot of people who miss him."

The team trained for months as they prepared for the gruelling challenge and difficult conditions

School friend John Pritchard, who came up with the idea for the fundraiser, explained: "We wanted to do something challenging, and it certainly was, but I could not be prouder of everyone involved.

"There was a lot of work to get to this point and we are grateful for all the support and sponsorship we have had to make it possible. The amount of money raised shows just how much people thought of Gaz."

The group raised more than £47,000 for Welsh mental health charity the DPJ Foundation, which was set up in memory of Daniel Picton-Jones, a farmer who died from suicide.

Given Gareth's own work in agriculture it felt fitting to raise money for the charity, which was set up to tackle the lack of mental health support in rural communities.

Many of the group were completely new to rowing at the start of the year but went through rigorous training to prepare for the huge challenge and the often treacherous conditions of the Irish Sea.

"The sea was Gareth's happy place" and "thanks to sailing he had friends in every corner of the world"

John added: "We were glad to find a tight window in the weather and with the help of the four support boats and crew, completed it in 29 hours - much faster than predicted. Gaz was in our thoughts and hearts, and everyone's support spurred us on." As well as raising funds, it was important to the group to raise awareness of mental illness and suicide prevention."Just talk to someone, it doesn't matter who it is" urged Gareth's cousin, Robat Evans.

"Letting someone know how you feel and ease the burden."

If you have been affected by anything in this article, help and advice can be found here.

Samaritans is available day or night, 365 days a year. You can call them for free on 116 123, email them at, or visit to find your nearest branch.

The Mental Health Helpline for Wales is available to take your call any time, day or night. Freephone 0800 132 737 or text 'help" to 81066 (charged at standard network rate)