Ely Children Walking Miles for Whales to Bring Smiles

Local charity marks its 10th year of taking school children to walk the Jurassic Coast, raising more than £150,000 to help people recover from cancer
The Malcolm Whales Foundation, a charity established in 2008 by former Ely College-teacher Damien Whales in memory of his father, is preparing for its 10th annual Dorset Walk along the Jurassic Coast.
More than 150 schoolchildren and teachers from Ely, Peterborough and Northamptonshire will take part in the event, walking 40 miles of the South West Coast Path from Weymouth to Studland Bay over three days, from 13-15 July. Each will have raised an average of around £100 to participate, and will also rattle buckets to raise more as they walk, passing features familiar from their geography textbooks such as Lulworth Cove, Durdle Door and Old Harry. The walkers also clean up the trail as they go, helping maintain some of the National Trust’s most beautiful coastal countryside.
The Foundation has raised more than £150,000 from the event since its launch 10 years ago, and uses the money to provide practical help for young people recovering from cancer and other life-changing illnesses. In recent years, it has helped Grafham Water Sailability buy a new boat and get more disabled young people afloat, it has enabled The Harry Johnson Trust to build a sensory garden at The Princess Royal Hospital Telford, it has donated iPads to the children’s cancer ward at Addenbrookes Hospital in Cambridge, it enables Edgar’s Gift to provide a free six week break at a holiday retreat each year for families recovering from cancer, and it provides funds annually to Climbing Out, so that 16 young cancer survivors’ can re-build their confidence and self-esteem on a challenging outdoor adventure.
Commenting on the event, Damien Whales, former Head of PE at Ely College, said: “I am always blown away by the amount of support we get for this walk, both from the walkers themselves and their schools, and also from our generous sponsors. Ten years ago, as I took just 30 Ely students to Weymouth, I would never have dreamed that some of them would now be involved in running the Foundation, nor that we would be able to help so many people through the funds we’ve raised since. It’s become a proper logistical operation now, and is hard to pull off alongside my day-job, but I know my dad would have little sympathy for that. I’m fairly sure he’d be proud of what we’re doing in his name.”
Malcolm Whales was only 55 years old when he died of bowel cancer in 2008. Shortly before his diagnosis, he had taken an interest in endurance challenges and in particular long distance walks, and so Damien thought these would be a fitting way of remembering him. The Foundation also raises money through sponsored golf days, rugby matches and a ’12 hours of sport’ event at several schools.
Commenting on the impact of the walk, Ben Gibbs, an Ely-based Patron of the Foundation, said: “So many things impress me about these walks, but what strikes me most powerfully is watching some of the young walkers overcome their own personal challenges and develop as the miles take their toll. It really is a privilege to walk with these young fundraisers, and also to walk alongside those who have themselves battled cancer and other illnesses. As a Foundation, we are really grateful to Ely College and the other schools involved for their support, and for recognising the significant educational value of the walk for their students.”
The Foundation is always looking for charities and worthy causes to support, and also welcomes interest from companies or individuals who wish to sponsor its events. To find out more, see www.malcolmwhales.co.uk. To give to the Foundation, please see: http://www.malcolmwhales.co.uk/donate/4539153919


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