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Gareth’s blog: The power of community

I recently took on my first Great North Run – which was one hell of a personal challenge! But it was so much more than that.

Being part of a team of some 60,000 people, all there to challenge themselves, was nothing short of spellbinding..

Most, of course, were there to raise money for their chosen charity. But what blew me away more than anything was the length and breadth of charities that were represented … local, national, international, from every single kind of cause you can imagine, represented by every colour t-shirt from the rainbow and that’s before I get to the range of fancy dress that I saw along the route: the helicopter, the teapot, the squirrel, batman, superman and spider man, the fruit bowl, the princess and miss piggy. Oh and not forgetting the washing machine – yes, you read that right – a team of soldiers did the entire run taking it in turns to carry a washing machine on their backs. If that’s not commitment, I don’t know what is!

The passion, energy and enthusiasm was something I’ve never felt before on that scale. It made you feel part of a movement, a tribe, something unique.

Add to that the thousands upon thousands of people who lined the 13.1 mile route from Newcastle to South Shields. Some had travelled to cheer loved ones on their way round, others came out of their houses, or travelled a short distance to support the masses of people running past. They clapped, they sprayed us with their garden hoses to cool us down, they gave out sweets and other goodies, they played music, they danced and they cheered. People of the North East, I salute you – you did your community proud! 

Now that the muscles have stopped aching and my feet have started to repair themselves, I’ve been reflecting on a few things: 

Every single day, as a charity, we depend on people just like this to survive. Just like every other charity.

Not only do we depend on those taking on their own personal challenge to raise money, like the sky divers, the three peaks trekkers, the runners and the rowers. But we also depend on those giving up countless hours to volunteer in our shops, to collect our tubs, to shake buckets and rattle tins in the supermarkets and at our events. We depend on the raffles and the tombolas, on the dress down days and Christmas jumper days at work. We depend on our lottery players and the regular givers, our corporate partners, business club members and charity of the year partnerships. 

We depend on you, our local community, to help us to raise the 90% of funding that we need to keep the doors open. To keep supporting the children and families of West Yorkshire who come to us for help and support week in, week out. Families who are facing or living with the loss of their child. 

We will always depend on you. 

So, thank you. Thank you to every single person from every part of our local community who plays a critical part in supporting our charity. We’re so grateful for every minute gifted and every penny raised. It’s only with your support that we can commit to delivering our promise: that for as long as we’re here, no family in West Yorkshire will have to face the loss of their child alone. 

So the big question is – will I be taking on the challenge again for Forget Me Not? The answer is yes, of course I will. I’ve already signed up to run again next year – but no, I’m not planning on carrying a washing machine with me!