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Challengers: Surviving Lockdown

Established in Guildford in 1979, Challengers provides inclusive play and leisure activities for disabled children and young people. 86% of disabled children don’t have access to regular play or leisure activities and Challengers aim to reduce this number, supporting over 1,400 individuals across Guildford and the surrounding areas.

Like many charitable organisations, a large proportion of their income comes from fundraising activities and sponsorships. With sporting events, social gatherings and events all being cancelled for the summer, this had a huge impact on them both from individual fundraising and corporate sponsorships.

“Challengers are well known for the community spirit and team element when you’re out at events, whether you know the person or not the ‘Challengers’ orange uniform always stands out and people are quick to show their support.”

Throughout the year their social media is filled with individuals and groups out in the community raising funds for Challengers and where lockdown encouraged people to stay indoors, this didn’t just have an effect on the financial contributions but the opportunities to raise awareness of Challengers and the work that they do. In addition to this, with safety being at the top of their priorities, Challengers were forced to cancel a number of their schemes throughout the lockdown period and have had to cut back on their sessions even after they were able to resume.

“While virtual sessions and virtual events have made up some of the lost income, with great sadness, we had to permanently close a number of our schemes.” – Megan Mousley, Challengers

One of the events that has been a regular in COINS’ diary is Kelly’s bike ride, which was due to take place in May and regularly boasts a strong COINS contingent. Keen cyclist and regular participant Martin Bickley missed the camaraderie of these events, that were now crossed out in people’s diaries, and came up with the concept of COINS Grand Tour. The virtual event was completed remotely alongside government guidelines but gave participants of all abilities motivation to get out and get active with a common goal to achieve, with everyone more than happy for their ‘entry fees’ to go towards Challengers.

“I took part in the Challengers annual golf day at West Hill just prior to the lockdown in March and was really moved hearing some of the families talk about how Challengers helps them and the impact it has. Once it became clear that most of my own and other peoples’ events and races through the summer were going to be cancelled, I decided to do a ‘virtual’ type challenge with the goal of helping keep people engaged with each other, keep us motivated with our training and health goals and as a bonus to also support Challengers financially. We had such a great response from COINS staff, our partners and clients and it was made even better that our efforts benefitted Challengers too.” – Martin Bickley, COINS

The reduced income for Challengers prompted the launch of their Emergency Appeal, #SaveOrangeScheme where they had an amazing response raising an incredible £68,000. The team are now keen to take on the next challenge and have made suitable adaptions in order to move forwards:

“We now have a dedicated COVID-19 Response Team who have been doing risk assessments and training on schemes and have come up with new policies and procedures to help keep children and staff safe through the pandemic.” - Megan Mousley, Challengers

The work that Challengers do make a huge difference to the individuals and families of those who attend their schemes so a huge thank you to everyone who has supported them and continues to do so during this time.


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