Ten up-and-coming actors are taking Men's Health Week to a new level by cycling 300km for charity as part of a stag do with a difference.

Hot young talent Leon Ockenden (recent roles in Secret Diary of a Call Girl, Heartbeat and video game Heavy Rain) has convinced nine of his closest acting chums (including Ben Batt of Shameless fame and Harry Lloyd who starred in the BBC drama Robin Hood as well as episodes of Dr Who) to take on the challenge of riding from London to Paris to raise funds for the charity Best Beginnings.

Instead of the usual party antics associated with the rite of passage, the actors will be putting all their physical efforts into ensuring a healthy start for Britain's babies.
Best Beginnings focuses on the period from before a child is born to their second birthday, during which the foundations of a healthy life are laid. There is a large child health gap between the top and bottom of the socio-economic scale in the UK and across certain ethnic communities. These gaps lead to premature birth, serious illnesses, developmental disorders and deaths in early infancy. A baby born in the poorest parts of the Midlands is six times more likely to die in infancy than in affluent parts of Hampshire.
Leon said: "I was fortunate enough to be given the best possible start in life by my parents but not everyone is so lucky. Best Beginnings actively seeks out and educates those who need it most. It’s both a challenge and a pleasure to be doing something so significant as part of preparations for my married life with friends who feel as passionately about the cause as I do. The bike ride is an open celebration and it would be fab if you could join us on the ride or sponsor us."
Many of us assume that inequality in child health is a third world issue but it's also an issue right here on our doorstop. It’s simply not good enough and we’re committed to closing the gap to ensure all Britain's babies have the best possible chance of a best beginning. I’m thrilled that Leon and his stags are joining me and people from all walks of life on the bike ride. Together we’ll raise vital funds and have a lot of fun too!

As Men's Health Week is in full swing (it ends on Father’s Day this Sunday) preparation for the bike ride has picked up pace. Three of the actors have just undertaken a gruelling training session under the charge of a seven-year-old bootcamp general. You can watch them being put through their paces at www.youtube.com/bestbeginnings.

Places are still available for members of the public to take part. For more information go to www.bestbeginnings.org.uk.

For further press information, pictures and quotes please contact John Smithies on 07881 552297 or [email protected].

Notes to editors
Best Beginnings works to give every baby in the UK the healthiest start in life. We use innovative approaches to ensure families have the information and support they need to protect their children’s health.

The next major project Best Beginnings is undertaking is the creation of a DVD for parents of babies born prematurely or sick – a cause even more pertinent with Father's Day just around the corner. Evidence shows children born into poverty are more likely to be born early or small and more than one in ten babies in the UK is premature. Just £6 per premature or sick child would ensure their parents receive a film showing them how to care for their baby when it has been born under difficult or unusual circumstances. It is the first DVD of its kind and will follow real parents’ experiences of having a sick or premature baby.

Leon Ockenden (born 1978) has played supporting roles in a number of television dramas since 2003. He grew up in the resort town of Looe, in Cornwall, starring in plays at his school before pursuing a career in acting. Ockenden is probably most notable for his performances in the episodes of the Australian/English television series Tripping Over in which he played gay wild boy carpenter, Callum. He appeared in the film adaptation of Clive Barker's Dread in 2009. Ockenden lent his voice and likeness to the critically acclaimed video game Heavy Rain, in which he played FBI profiler Norman Jayden.

Stags taking part in the London to Paris bike ride are: Leon Ockenden, Michael Dixon, Philip Bulcock, Sam Heughan, Ben Batt, Samuel Roukin, Rupert Young, Joseph Chance, Harry Lloyd and Scott Brooksbank.