CMAT leader hands over the ‘reins’ to public to decide fate of his lockdown beard

Mark Woods, CEO of Cambridge Meridian Academies Trust (CMAT), is asking for the public to have their say on the future of his lockdown beard as part of a fundraising campaign for Sue Ryder Thorpe Hall Hospice.

In March this year, Mark Woods promised that he would grow a beard during lockdown and not shave until all students were back in full-time education.

Mark dutifully grew his beard over the spring and summer and now that nearly all students have returned to the classroom, he has launched a fundraising campaign to decide on its future.

Mark is asking students, parents and the public to vote to either shave the beard off or keep the beard until December, when he would become CMAT’s answer to Father Christmas. 

The campaign with the most funding pledged will determine if Mark will be ho-ho-ho-ing this Christmas or wearing a polo neck to keep his chin warm.

All proceeds from the campaign will be donated to Sue Ryder’s Thorpe Hall Hospice in honour of Martin Bacon, the founder and former CEO of CMAT, who received care at the hospice before sadly passing away in 2013.

Mark said: “I can honestly say I haven’t touched my beard since March; it’s seen less attention over the last six months than my passport has. While my family are desperate for the beard to go, lots of the students, who I always say have great taste, tell me the beard is growing on them.

“This year has been extremely challenging for young people and those working in education so I created the fundraising campaign as a fun way for our community to come together and, most importantly, raise money for a cause that is close to our hearts at CMAT.

“Martin loved a daft challenge so I’m sure he would be having a chuckle at this. So please, get voting, as we want as many people as we can to have their say so we can raise lots of money for Sue Ryder.

“And if the beard stays then I will be ready to dye it white and available to play the role of Father Christmas across our schools and community.”

CMAT operates across Cambridgeshire, Peterborough, Lincolnshire and Northamptonshire, working with both primary and secondary schools including Nene Park Academy, Ely College, Swavesey Village College, The Ferrers School and Stamford Welland Academy.

Nilesh Patel, Senior Community Fundraiser at Sue Ryder Thorpe Hall Hospice, said: “A big thank you to Mark and the team for supporting Sue Ryder through this fun and inventive campaign – it’s a real grower!

“We are very grateful for all the support that CMAT and their schools have given us over the years.

“The proceeds we receive from these fundraising efforts are a real help and enable us to continue providing our expert palliative care to patients and their families.

“Thank you again Mark – and we are definitely Team Santa at the hospice!”

The public has until 6pm on Wednesday 30th September to decide and can vote by visiting:

If Mark’s target of £5,000 hasn’t been reached by the deadline, he is ready and waiting to have the final ‘sleigh’.

Press release from Cambridge Meridian Academies Trust

A Christmas ‘elfie of Mark Woods
To shave, or not to shave? Mark Woods and his lockdown beard
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