Dame Kelly Homes Trust athlete mentors are supporting 150 in and outpatients at Alder Hey Children’s Hospital in their recovery this year by helping them become more physically active and increasing their wellbeing, through the Ready, Steady, Go programme.

Following a successful pilot which saw the Trust working directly with hospital inpatients for the first time, funding has been granted by the Peter Sowerby Digital Breakthrough Fund to the Trust, in partnership with Alder Hey Children’s Charity and Alder Hey Children’s Hospital, to continue and expand upon this work with the hospital this year, extending the offer to allow access to outpatients.

The programme has recently launched with the first young people already enjoying their athlete mentor sessions. We are inviting a variety of patients to take part including patients with asthma, chronic pain, obesity and arthritis. Many of these young people are struggling with confidence, self-esteem and understanding how exercise can fit into their life with a particular diagnosis.

Starting in Alder Hey Children's Hospital, with plans to work with more hospitals in the future, the Trust sees this as an exciting opportunity to expand its programme offering into healthcare settings, supporting more young people facing challenges in their everyday lives.

All Dame Kelly Holmes Trust programmes are designed to use personal, social and emotional development practices to increase the participants’ confidence, self-esteem and resilience. Athlete mentors, who are trained by the Trust to use their unique skills and experience form the world of elite sport to act as mentors and role models for young people, promote the intrinsic link between physical and mental wellbeing as a core element of the programme sessions.

Delivered via Zoom and an app designed by the Trust’s founder and President, Col Dame Kelly Holmes, the pilot’s focus was to encourage and motivate young people to become more active during their hospital stay, and once they returned home. Young people could access a wide range of tools and resources designed to support wellbeing, including bespoke video fitness sessions aimed at the needs of young people recovering in hospital and available at different intensity levels. Athlete mentors also held remote 1:1 mentoring sessions with the young people, offering encouragement and support.


Young people involved in the pilot were able to input into the programme design, and the subsequent rollout features several updates as a direct result of their feedback:

  • including introducing 1:1 instead of group activities,
  • focusing those 1:1s on wellbeing and
  • including more advice on nutrition and healthy eating.

According to Victoria Gray from the clinical psychology team at Alder Hey, 1500 referrals are received each year by the clinical health psychology team and patients at Alder Hey are 3 to 5 times more likely to experience mental health difficulties than their peers.

Research shows that 1 in 3 young people doesn’t feel confident about exercising when in hospital, we are also aware that a diagnosis of any kind has a negative impact on a young person’s confidence, and physical and mental wellbeing. We know that 80% of young people use apps regularly, and 100% would use an app to help them to be more active. The Ready, Steady, Go programme, delivered by Trust athlete mentors, is designed to break down these barriers.

Feedback from young people who took part in the pilot confirmed how the programme has supported them: one participant noted,

(The exercise videos / app were) good, clear, I liked the modified versions to help if struggling with an exercise. I would do this after the programme, because I have already done some so now know how to do it and have more confidence to do it.

Another mentioned,

The programme really changed my view of exercise, I used to think it was useless but now see it as helpful.

The young people find their athlete mentors incredibly inspiring and at the same time very relatable. Each one of them has faced challenges throughout their lives and sporting careers, and they love to encourage young people to talk about their fears and challenges so that they can share their own experiences to help them overcome them. Each young person is different, and this programme allows them to create a plan together with short- and long-term goals using the Five Ways to Wellbeing and individual dreams and needs.

Claire Hepworth, Clinical Specialist Respiratory Physiotherapist at Alder Hey said about the programme:

The Ready, Steady, Go programme with Dame Kelly Holmes Trust is an opportunity for young people to improve their physical and mental wellbeing, offering a variety of options including 1:1 mentoring with world class athletes, in addition to podcasts, videos and information of exercise, sleep, nutrition and wellbeing. We are receiving excellent feedback from young people who are engaging with the programme, reporting that the team and athlete mentors are really approachable, fun and have expressed that they feel more self-confident. They particularly like the support offered to help  guide their self-development. We are very fortunate in Alder Hey to be able to offer this service to our young people.

As well as providing much-needed additional support to the Alder Hey team, the programme supports the One Liverpool Plan and Five Year Forward plan to empower young people to take control of their own health and to encourage them to be more active. The programme provides a supportive journey to promote better health and wellbeing.

For more information on programmes in healthcare settings, contact us on [email protected]