TEENAGERS have completed an 85-mile walk along the Ridgeway National Trail to raise funds for the charity which allowed them to turn their lives around.

Ten members of the SMASH Youth Project reached Overton on Friday afternoon after each covering sections of the trail in a six-day relay from Ivinghoe Beacon.

Thanks to their efforts, the team collected £4,000 but they have not lost hope of reaching their £5,000 target.

SMASH matches volunteer mentors and young people aged between 13 and 18 with difficult family backgrounds.

It offers them the attention, encouragement and advice they need to help them develop their talents and skills, and fulfill their potential.

Josh, 15, who took part in the Ridgeway trek, joined the programme six months ago. At the beginning he was introverted, lacked confidence and felt overwhelmed by the many obstacles life threw his way.

“Six months ago I couldn’t really talk to anyone but now I feel more confident with people,” he said. “I look forward to seeing my mentor every week and she’s helped me have an objective in life. “Like this walk, it’s just another challenge and just like my GCSEs and some of the other problems I've got, like living in care. They’re all just challenges that I know I can overcome now.”

Since 1999, the SMASH Youth Project has helped more than 1,000 young people in Swindon through a year’s one-on-one mentoring.

Just £5,000 would allow SMASH to provide 500 hours of mentoring for young people when they need it most.

Dr John Mervyn-Smith, a recently appointed SMASH trustee, was inspired to tackle the sponsored walk with the youngsters after finding out that having a listening ear transformed their lives.

“This walk is a metaphor for their lives,” he said. “We’ve faced rain, fog and wind and they face daily difficulties caring for parents or coping with bereavement or domestic violence. “They’ve all shown tremendous character when it’s been tough but they promised their sponsors they would do it and they have.”

To make a donation go to www.justgiving.co.uk/teams/ smashridgewaywalkers or text SMSH05 followed by £2, £5, £10 to 70070.

To find out more ways to support SMASH, either by donating or volunteering, visit www.smashyouthproject.co.uk or email admin@smashyouthproject.co.uk.