Putting your best foot forward for charity can be a lot more fun if you do it with a bunch of friends, as Alex Galbinski reports.
After two of Sara Nathan’s best friends were diagnosed with breast cancer, the lettings agency director decided she needed something to take all their minds off it.
She and another friend organised ‘Sara n Pipa Kick Ass’, which ended up with a team of 150 women who took part in a 5km Race for Life, a female-only event to raise money for Cancer Research UK.
They raised £35,000 – smashing their target of £10,000.
Sara’s friend Sara Collins, now 40, had been diagnosed last year. Sara C, whose own mother died of the disease aged 55, endured five months of chemotherapy, a double mastectomy and then radiotherapy, but has recently been given the all-clear. Their friend Pipa Oliveri, 44, was also given the all-clear in July, after discovering two 2cm cancerous tumours in her breast and had to have six sessions of chemotherapy and one month of radiotherapy. As Sara N, 42, who lives in Bushey, says: “What we did helped the girls get through it. It gave them something else to focus on.
Everyone had a brilliant day and everyone wants us to do it again next year.” She had organised to have T-shirts printed for all the team members, wrote to companies for sponsorship and managed to hand out goodie bags to her team, including chocolates and even champagne, for the end of the race. Seeing her friends go through such a difficult time was extremely difficult, she says.
“Sitting there and trying to be there for them, telling them it’s going to be OK but having absolutely no idea what they’re going through… But the race kept my mind off it, so God knows what it did for them.” Sara C, who took part in the race, says: “The atmosphere and support was amazing, as was the number of people who took part and it raised so much awareness of breast cancer.” Pipa agrees, adding: “It took our minds off it and the support was unbelievable.” There were also financial benefits to being in a team.
Sara N explains: “I’ve done the Race for Life before and many people do it. You do it one year and you get £300. The year after, people don’t sponsor you as much.When you do it as a massive team, and people see the money going up, people like that they can sponsor you all in one hit.” The friends are hoping even more women join their team next year and say the feeling of camaraderie made the event even better. “The event organisers knew who we were and how much we’d raised and they mentioned us as we went round,” adds Sara N. “It was much more of a bonding experience.”
A “bonding experience” is exactly how Adam Caplan, 45, describes his achievement in the Jerusalem Marathon this year, but all the more because it was with his daughter, Bianca. For Adam, taking part in any sort of exercise at all was a miracle as, in 2008, he broke his left leg into 19 pieces, and the damage was so severe he was advised amputation of the limb might be necessary. “Thankfully that did not happen, but the accident was a defining moment for me” says Adam, who among his many jobs is a motivational speaker and psychotherapist.
“In many ways it encouraged me to restructure my life and when a friend, Perry Sugarman, announced on Facebook that he was running the Jerusalem Marathon for the charity Shalva in Israel, I told him I was going to give it a go too, and he goaded me with the response ‘Oh, please’.”
That Adam would even consider such a challenge was remarkable as he had been told he shouldn’t run at all and, to add to the problem, he describes himself as being at the time “morbidly obese”. “But I saw that as a reason to make it happen all the more, for the sake of my health and I wanted my daughter to give up smoking, so I asked her to do it too. It suddenly became the focus of our lives and united us in a way I never imagined possible.”
With Bianca, 21, living with Adam’s ex-wife in Esher and he residing in Chigwell, the time they spent together was infrequent, but once training for the marathon began they saw each other all the time and journeys to and from the half-marathons they entered ahead of the “big one” became quality time for father and daughter. “Bianca was much faster than me as a runner, so when it came to the marathon she went ahead, completing it in four hours and 20 minutes against my seven hours, which was an endurance test to say the least,” laughs Adam. “But she broke down when she crossed the finish line and was standing there waiting for me with my medal as I arrived. ‘Can I stop running now?’ I asked and she said ‘Yes daddy, you can’ and then I broke down and cried, too.”
Adam and Bianca raised £3,000 for Shalva, the Association for Mentally & Physically Challenged Children in Israel, and a life-changing experience for its fundraisers lies at the heart of what the charity is about. “Shalva provides services to more than 500 participants with special needs, including infants, children, adolescents and young adults via a plethora of tailored programs,” says Adam, who visited the centre ahead of their 26-mile run over 24 hills.
“When you see what they do there, it stays in your head and drives you on. Next March, we will do it again and then after that, Bianca and I will climb Mount Kilimanjaro together and hopefully raise £13,000.” For Hannah Mindel and her friends, it was school that spurred them on. She was one of six friends who did the Shine Walk in September, a half-marathon night walk around London on behalf of Cancer Research UK, under the name of Team Akiva (they are all parents of children at Akiva school). The fact they were in a team was an incentive to keep going and together they raised more than £3,000.
“I’m not sure any of us could have trained or walked without the encouragement and company,” Hannah says. “We had training buddies. Walking was fun and it was motivating to know everyone was training and we would be together on the night. It made it a fun night.”
But training as a team proved a challenge.
“It was surprisingly hard to find a time when all of us could train, so we ended up training in pairs or threes,” Hannah admits. Saying that, Hannah and teammate Nicola Gee even managed to train when they were on holiday in Spain. “We had a reason to wake up and exercise when everyone was still asleep and we didn’t want to let each other down,” Nicola says. “We had our own WhatsApp group so we could organise training and motivate each other,” she adds. “If I had been doing it by myself, I don’t think I would have had as much motivation to power-walk five miles two or three times a week. The team aspect made it more fun, especially on the actual night.”
Jason Shaverin, 30, of Mill Hill, also found training with a friend invaluable. He took part in three Spartan events, including ‘the Beast’ on 11 October, a 20km race with 26 obstacles, to raise money for prostate cancer and Chai Cancer Care. “Running in pairs helps you out because if you’re lagging and your pal has energy, it motivates you. My friend and I are of very similar abilities, so we weren’t there to outdo each other but bring out the best in each other. I pushed myself a bit harder running with him. We stayed together most of the time on the actual day.”
Friendship and fundraising is a winning combination and its formation can occur in the most unlikely places, as Corinne Linskell discovered in May, when the women she usually spent time with critiquing books turned a corner instead of a page by doing a half-marathon.
Corinne, 47, from Stanmore and six other members of her book club took part in Sunrise Walk on behalf of Jewish Blind & Disabled. Says Corinne: “We set up a joint fundraising page, which inspired us to raise even more money and spread the news of our efforts through Facebook and other social media. We also encouraged each other with our training schedules. Being a regular gym-goer, I thought I would be fine, but it certainly made me do more training when I realised how seriously some of the team were taking it.” On the day of the walk, the ‘Book Club Go For a Walk’ team became a focus as the largest group walking together within the larger group of participants.
“This made it very sociable, chatting with other members, but also meant that the time passed quicker,” Corinne recalls. “We always have a lot to say to each other, so it was a great opportunity to catch up.”
Her teammate, Alisa Heimann, 42, of Bushey Heath, adds: “Training was so much easier, as we all had a common goal and were constantly talking about our progress with each other and providing much-needed encouragement, especially when people became concerned that they had maybe bitten off too much. Organising logistics and other details were shared out rather than landing on just one individual. “But, most importantly, doing the walk with a group of friends made the actual event so much more enjoyable on the day itself and we all provided each other with constant encouragement and support when the going got tough.”
Sophie Malka, 28, of Hendon, was one of seven friends who took part in Meir Panim’s 10km Soup Walk in March with around 40 other people, to help raise money for people in Israel living in poverty and hunger. “It was a great event and something you can do with a whole bunch of friends,” she says.
The adverse weather conditions did not even dampen their spirits. “The event was on a rainy Sunday night, which made the event more challenging, but everyone was in high spirits so the event turned out to be fun. It’s always more fun to do charity with other people.”
Sara n Pipa Kick Ass www.spkickass.co.uk
Cancer Research’s Shine Walk http://shine.cancerresearchuk.org
The Akiva team www.justgiving.com/TeamAkiva
Jason Shaverin’s web page http://uk.virginmoneygiving.com/fundraiser-web/fundraiser/showFundraiserProfilePage.action?userUrl=Jason.Shaverin
Jewish Blind & Disabled www.jbd.org
MANNA, UK branch of Meir Panim www.mannauk.org
Team Caplan on behalf of Shalva www.teamcaplan.co.uk