Big-hearted staff at a housing association are taking on an ambitious round-the-world challenge in aid of a much-loved hospice.
The team of nearly 100 people at Cartrefi Conwy are attempting to walk, run, cycle, hop or even skip 25,000 miles – the circumference of the earth – before Christmas Eve to raise money for St David’s Hospice in Llandudno.
They’re aiming to rake in thousands of pounds for the hospice which provides palliative care for people from Conwy, Gwynedd and Anglesey.
Leading by example is Cartrefi Conwy chief executive Andrew Bowden who has already clocked up 70 miles of walking.
He said: “The problem is there is no hiding place. All those taking part are on an app which is updated daily so we can all see who has done what and who is putting the hard work in. It has become very competitive.
“It is actually a wonderful initiative in what has been a roller-coaster of a year with the ongoing pandemic and health crisis. It’s given us all a challenge and something to focus on.
“It’s vitally important we all look at our mental health and getting out and active certainly boosts our wellbeing. I always believe that if staff are happy then that helps ensure our customers will be happy too. Unhappy staff will not deal with customers as well as a happy team.”
He added: “We wanted to support a charity and there is none better than St David’s Hospice. It was previously our nominated charity of the year.
“We all recognise the difficulties charities have faced during the Covid-19 pandemic with many fundraising streams drying up.
“Charities that rely on events as well as their retail outlets to raise funds are many millions of pounds down or where they need to be. So, any help we can give I’m sure will be welcomed.”
Top of the early leader board with nearly 300 miles on the clock is independent living co-ordinator and keen cyclist Kim Ashby.
Kim, 28, who has worked at Cartrefi Conwy for three years, said: “I started cycling 12 months ago as my partner, Craig, is a keen cyclist and our five-year-old son loves his bike too.
“I get out at least three times a week including weekends. I was keen to support St David’s Hospice too as I had a family member, an aunt, who received end-of-life care at the hospice.
“The challenge has also motivated me to keep fit and it certainly helps with my mental health. I’m not sure if I’ll remain top-of-the-league when it comes to miles completed, things are getting pretty competitive!”
Ceri Twist, 47, an independent living manager who has been with Cartrefi Conwy for more than seven years, also has a personal reason for wanting to support St David’s Hospice.
She said: “My dad spent the last few weeks of his life at the hospice receiving the most wonderful care possible. I’ve clocked up more than 110 miles but adding more each day.”
Cartrefi Conwy board member and tenant Bill Hunt has joined staff in taking on the round-the-world challenge and has already added more than 140 miles to the total.
He said: “I just love the idea and the team-building opportunities it presents in what are such troubled times. As well as raising funds for such a wonderful cause I’m feeling better just getting out and exercising.
“We are all pushing ourselves to do more and the app has certainty added a competitive element.”
Cartrefi Conwy’s older person’s engagement coordinator, Nerys Veldhuizen, has so far added more than 110 miles to the total distance.
She said: “The app has added a different element to the challenge as we can all see who has done what day to day. It’s a great challenge as you can choose how to put the miles in. I’m walking and running as opposed to cycling.”
Digital media officer Guto Williams and community involvement coordinator Megan Eldon are both keen cyclists and say they are enjoying the challenge.
Megan, who has already clocked up more than 150 miles, said: “I love cycling although I’m splitting the challenge between cycling and running. It’s such a good cause and I’m really enjoying it. It’s certainly a benefit getting away from a computer screen for a few hours exercise.”
Guto, who has chalked up more than 127 miles to the team’s total, said: “The idea for the challenge came from a communications team meeting. The idea is to support a really great charity while getting people out exercising as a way to improve mental health.”
Claire Phipps, who works for Cartrefi Conwy subsidiary Creating Enterprise, signed up for the challenge as soon as she heard about it despite being pregnant.
She said: “The challenge has had a really uplifting and positive affect on me, and I’m trying to use every rare opportunity I get out and about to rack up the mileage, however small that can sometimes be with teeny toddler steps.”
St David’s Hospice area fundraiser James Wilde thanked the Cartrefi Conwy team for tackling the Big Outdoor Challenge in support of St David’s Hospice.
He said: “I look forward to seeing how the team get on and the funds and awareness raised will make a huge difference to both patients and their families cared for here at St David’s Hospice.”
“St David’s is a local charity delivering free, specialist end-of-life care to local people living with life-limiting illnesses. Each year the Hospice needs to raise over £4 million to provide this vital care, which, since the middle of March, has been severely affected by the ongoing Covid crisis.
“Due to the closure of charity shops throughout lockdown and cancellation of vital fundraising events, we have totalled a loss of £1 million.
“Community fundraising activities such as the Big Outdoor Challenge will help towards the Hospice’s Recovery Fund target to recoup the £1 million by the end of 2020.”