We recently launched our biggest ever fundraising challenge, The Starting Blocks Challenge. It highlights one of the founding reasons that Dame Kelly set up the Trust – after experiencing support from a schoolteacher who set her on the path for sporting achievement and realising what a huge difference just one person who believes in you can make, she wanted to offer other young people facing challenges in their everyday lives the same opportunity.  

Over the weekend of 16th - 18th September, our CEO Ben Hilton completed his very own Starting Blocks Challenge, cycling over 200 miles from Bath to Truro to celebrate the inspirational teacher that made a lasting impact in his life, raising over £2,300 in the process. Here's the story in Ben's words.

"In mid September I embarked on my own Starting Blocks Challenge covering 216 miles (I got lost!) over three days cycling from where I live and work in Bath, to Truro where I first met my childhood inspiration Mrs Bridger, my secondary school drama teacher. She inspired me and thousands of other students at Penair School to believe in ourselves, to have high aspirations and to never give up on what you believe is possible. She truly believed that every young person has the potential to achieve. 

To say the ride had its ups and downs is an understatement, physically and metaphorically – the route was VERY hilly and despite careful planning, I didn’t quite realise how isolated the backroads were and I even ended up cycling up and down a coastal path - this must have been user error! - where I had to carry my bike up and down at least 100 steps. I massively underestimated the length of the days and hours in the saddle, the number of shops I thought I would pass and how much food I ought to have brought - which on day one was pretty much nothing!  Huge thanks to the King William in Edington, Somerset who filled up my water bottle for me after 25 miles with no liquid! My thoughts of tranquil contemplation, beautiful views and country pubs for lunch were just dreams! It rained...and to top it all off, I did this all in my trademark flip-flops – yes you read that right - I maintain my feet wouldn’t have had it any other way! 

 

But don’t get me wrong, it was beautiful, the scenery was amazing. I had lots of time to reflect on my Starting Block and the difference I’d be making to young lives. I set this challenge to push my limits and this is what every young person the Trust supports is asked to do. To step out of their comfort zone, to push themselves and live new experiences. I was underprepared but I pulled on all the positive mental attitude and resilience I could muster. The people on route lifted me too. From the said pub barman to the guy on the ferry who cycled with me on Saturday morning when I was tired, deflated and soggy! To the lady laughing at me and asking “is that why they call it a push bike?” when driving past me on one of the hills which beat me, to getting £3 from another guy who asked me what I was doing and gathered all his change from his car to support the Trust. 

It was so motivating to see the donations coming in and huge thanks to everyone who supported me, you’ll never know how much that kept me going. Big thanks also to Julie Skentelbery of BBC Radio Cornwall for the mention (you can listen here - 1hr25mins in)! The sense of achievement when I arrived in Truro was awesome – I made it to my old school and (probably not for the first time) cracked open a cider and toasted Mrs Bridger before meeting up with her oldest son Jamie for a well-earned pint.  

With so many fundraising challenges out there, I have to say, having my own personal story and motivation behind this really gave me a boost. Starting Blocks works for individuals or organisations wanting a challenge to unite staff and customers, and we’ve been working with some great partners engaging their teams. I truly felt part of something bigger and hats off to all the others who have completed their challenge so far and those that have already pledged to take part. 

If you want to hear more about the challenge and how to get involved, do visit our dedication Starting Blocks website, or if you fancy sponsoring me to help support our work please feel free to visit my fundraising page."