2.6 Challenge Triumph

Wow! What a day. 

The friends and supporters of Action for Stammering Children really did us proud with their 2.6 challenge. 50 wonderful people all running, walking, cycling, cross-training, stilt-walking, basketball-hoop-shooting, circuit-training, planking, 80s-style-aerobicizing and even some split-screen-instagram-breaking-core-busting-Strictly-Gangnam-style-dancing. Each had their own fabulous and creative interpretation of the numbers 2 and 6. We might all be locked-down in our own socially-isolated homes but we had a gloriously up-beat Sunday 26thApril raising much needed funds to support our on-going work. 

To think just 11 days earlier I received an email inviting me to a webinar. It was from the London Marathon team and it looked tantalising. They had realised how difficult it was for charities to raise money at the moment and had come up with an idea that they wanted to share with us. It couldn’t have come at a better time. 

When the coronavirus lockdown hit, the team at the Charity had been reflecting on a hugely successful 30thAnniversary fundraising year and wondering how we were going to match that for the next financial year. Like many charities, we face a huge fundraising challenge every single year. We need to raise enough money to keep the Michael Palin Centre open, delivering much needed support and therapy to children who stammer and their families. Maintaining our national helpline, running extra training in stammering for Speech and Language Therapists as well as funding intensive and residential courses for children who stammer, all costs money. Thanks to the generosity of our supporters we have managed that successfully for the last three decades. 

This year will be very challenging for us. There is no doubt about that. The coronavirus crisis will mean a lot of hardship and sadness for many families. The NHS will be under extreme pressure. When we work in partnership with the NHS to run the Michael Palin Centre, we really appreciate what that means. Indeed, three of our Speech and Language Therapists volunteered to go onto the front-line, working in the intensive care unit at the Whittington Hospital with Covid-19 patients. We are all so proud of them. Charity fundraising in such circumstances felt next to impossible. 

However, nothing is impossible for the Action for Stammering Children family. When I discussed the 2.6 challenge idea with Jo Hunter, our Chair of Trustees, she leapt into action. Before I knew it, all the entire board of Trustees were all signed up to complete a team marathon challenge and our Vice President and former shadow chancellor, the Rt Hon Ed Balls was wracking his brains working out what he could do to help. 

Our wonderful Youth Panel members picked up the challenge. Fundraising supremo Phoebe Avbulimen was not feeling sufficiently challenged by the numbers 2 and 6 in that order so she swapped them round and decided to run 6.2 kilometres instead. Zain Ghani rose to great heights, nine foot two inches to be precise, as he did his 2.6 mile walk on stilts. Thomas Grattoni-May, aged 15 and already pretty tall himself at over six foot, decided to enlist the UK basketball community, challenging them all to match his attempt to shoot 26 basketball hoops in 2.6 minutes. Suddenly, all over the country, basketball pros and coaches were competing to shoot the hoops in faster times and posting their videos on social media. 

Meanwhile the Michael Palin Centre team of brilliant, specialist Speech and Language Therapist were planning something rather spectacular. Head of the Centre, Elaine Kelman had recruited no less than 26 speech and language therapists, past and present. With them each doing one socially-distanced mile, they were going to complete a marathon together. They recorded it all on a beautifully crafted video, with a much loved, comedy legend, knight of the realm and official national treasure making a guest appearance at the end. 

I couldn’t have dreamt of a better response but there was more to come. For many people, Ed Balls is known best for his political career and his grasp of the intensely technical economics behind endogenous growth theory. However, for a few others, he is most well-known for an iconic dance performance on a popular Saturday evening entertainment programme. So, it was that at precisely 2.26pm, as our Trustees were sat at home recovering from their 2.6 team challenge, and scrolling through their Instagram feed, we witnessed possibly one of the most extraordinary internet phenomena of the modern era. By the wonders of technology, Ed Balls and BBC Strictly pro-dancer, Katya Jones recreated their Gangnam Style dance routine, whilst each were in their respective living rooms. Ed in a sharp suit and sunshades was recreating the Gangnam Pony steps, as only he can whilst Katya appeared to be clinging to his legs and, with abdominal muscles made of steel, was kicking her own legs in time to South Korean Psy’s classic pop hit. Never, in my humble opinion, has an Instagram split screen been used to better effect. 

Such an unbelievable team effort! It will go so far to supporting our important work helping children who stammer and their families. At this time of writing, a total of 242 people have donated a total edging tantalisingly close to £10,000 and the donations keep coming in. You can click below to see the latest figure. Thank you so much to everyone who got involved. With your help we will continue to support children who stammer and their families throughout the lockdown, however long it lasts, and beyond. 

Steven Gauge, Chief Executive, Action for Stammering Children



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