The 401 Foundation was started by our founder Ben Smith, here is the reason why we do what we do:
Ben childhood wasn’t the best, not because he didn’t have parents that loved him, not because he wasn’t given every opportunity in life, but because he like many kids suffered at the hands of bullies. All through his school life he was told he wasn’t good enough, who he was as a person was wrong, that he wasn’t normal and to be honest all he wanted to be was normal. This had a profound impact on his confidence and self-esteem and unfortunately lead to him trying to take his own life twice.
He suffered from depression all through his twenties, pretending to be someone he wasn’t, using up all the energy he had to cover up his true self. On paper he was successful, driven, confident, outgoing, but inside he was broken, a shell, had no confidence or self-esteem and suffered from severe mental health issues. After a TIA (an incomplete stroke) at aged 29 he woke up, realised he couldn’t live the life he had been living anymore and decided to change it.
At 17.5 stone, a 40 a day smoker, depressed with no confidence or belief in himself, he started to run. He found something inside himself that he loved for the first time, something that brought back his adventurous spirit from when he was a very young kid. He finally had a fire in his belly and it came from running. His confidence grew, his self-esteem came back and after 2 years he had run almost 30 marathons all around the world, but he felt he was destined to do something bigger.
The 401 Challenge was born in 2014, a challenge that would see Ben run 401 marathons in 401 days all around the UK aiming to raise £250,000 for two anti- bullying charities. The product aimed to inspire people, challenge them to do things they never thought they could do along with raising the awareness of the harmful effects bullying can have on your confidence and self-esteem. The challenge was a huge success, we achieved all the goals it set out, raising over £330,000, inspiring over 13,500 runners to join Ben on his journey, covering 10,506.2 miles (London to Sydney), climbing the equivalent of Mount Everest 15 times.
The effects of The 401 Challenge were felt globally, people connected, people found solace in the challenge and over 1,600 were inspired to run further than they had ever run before in their lives. Adults and kids took part, spreading the message far and wide, culminating in a globally published finish. Ben couldn’t leave it there, too much had changed in both his life and everyone that had been affected by the challenge.
This is where the legacy of The 401 Foundation was born.
To build people’s confidence and self-esteem and improve mental health. Throughout Ben’s journey around the UK, he saw and spoke to so many local projects and individuals that were crying out for financial support but couldn’t get it as their footprint was deemed to be too low and many didn’t have the time or resources to apply because half the time they also had jobs alongside what they were passionately doing. The 401 Foundation believes that local community projects are the backbone of our society, where the real change happens, it is our aim to provide the funding that is necessary to these projects.
Our mission is simple! We passionately strive to help people build their confidence and self-esteem and improve mental health and self-development, by financially supporting local community projects and individuals directly. We have some short term goals which we are aiming to achieve over the next few years:
- To create an application that will allow us to build a sense of community around our community projects, linking our donors with the projects they are supporting and visa versa.
- To create easily accessible grants for grass-roots projects supporting them to make a real difference and lasting impact in their local community.
- To create a network of the well-being projects being delivered around the UK.
- To have a 401 Ambassador in every county of the UK.
What makes us unique?
Our charity is setup so that we are able to identify where donations come from, all the way down to postcode area. this means, even though we are a national charity, we have split the UK into 15 regions and are able to put donations back into the local communities that they came from.
Please get in touch if you would like to find out more about our unique charity.
Thanks for reading
Ben and The 401 Foundation team