Running Readers: The Santa Dash 2012

In just over two weeks, a 13 strong team of Reader Organisation runners will be donning their Santa suits and dashing across the city of Liverpool on Sunday 2nd December to raise money for The Reader Organisation’s Apprenticeship for Life Campaign.

We’ll be joining 8000 people for the Santa Dash, one of the biggest fun runs in the world, to try and raise a total of £500 towards employing another young care-leaver apprentice and providing them with the means to build a full and independent life. Our two existing apprentices, Eamee and Niall, are among the runners participating this year and they’ll be filling you in on their training, and why we’re running, over the next couple of weeks.

If you’d like to show your support for the campaign and our reading runners, please visit http://www.charitygiving.co.uk/trosantadash2012.

Now, time to decide whether to run in a red or a blue suit…

The Triumphant BLUE Santas

It was raining – torrentially. Think of the term ‘bucketing down’ then add a few more buckets! I’m talking about the TRO Santa Dash of course which despite being held on what is probably The Reader’s busiest day of the year (due to Penny and Ha’Penny Readings) was a resounding success! As the title suggests the Blue Santas stormed across the finish line first (obviously) and the reds, well, they were left behind (if only it was like this in real life.) We all enjoyed our running in the rain and raising money for the holiday for the looked after children we read with next year.

Santa Zoe and her little helpers

But don’t just take my word for it, here’s a testimony from our Wirral apprentice – and our youngest member of staff – Eamee Boden:

Completing the Santa Dash was such a good feeling. Being one of thousands of red and blue Santas it was great to be a part of that crowd, even though it was really windy, hail stoning and raining. It didn’t bother anyone about the rain as they were either raising money for a charity (like we were), or in memory of a loved one. The fact that everybody wanted to be a part of it was amazing and doing such a good thing kept people going despite the terrible weather conditions. Just before going up and across the flyover I couldn’t believe the amount of people that were there. I couldn’t get over the fact that supporters were standing on the pavements cheering complete strangers on. There was one guy who stood on a balcony holding a big sign post with the words ‘Santa is an Evertonian’. I don’t know about the reds but this certainly did please a lot of blues (including myself 🙂 ) , and people were looking up to and agreeing with him.

At the finishing point - with the real Santa?

When the race was over, it was an achievement that felt really good. I felt pleased and proud not only of myself but for our team, we worked hard and we pulled it off together.

Thank you for supporting us as we raised a whopping £1,010! A very big giant, huge, massive, ginormous thank you to everybody. However, if you were meaning to donate and forgot to get around to it you could still donate to this cause here in hindsight – Thank you all and see you next year for more Santa Dashing goodness.

Santa Dash: The reason why we’re running

With the big event this Sunday (well – two big events – how can we possibly overlook the Penny Readings?), the Reds and Blues are in the last lap of their intensive training . Never mind twelve drummers drumming  – though we’re sure there’ll be much beating of drums once they race over the finishing line in record time – it’s all about the twelve TRO Santas dashing across the centre of Liverpool.

Getting in some last minute training

All of the training, blood, sweat and (hopefully not too many) tears is in aid of helping to continue to support the looked-after children we read with and in particular, to give them a wonderful adventure holiday to remember. Our final Santa Dash 2011 report comes from Young Person’s Project Worker and member of the Blue team Anna, who explains the reasons why our Red and Blue Santas are taking part:

I am a project worker in Liverpool on the Looked After Children project. I read one to one with 10 young people aged between 8 and 16 in their various foster placements.

They can be a tough crowd. Many have very poor concentration, and find sitting and listening to a story for 5 minutes (let alone an hour) a challenge. They often also have low self esteem. This lack of confidence means many are unwilling to read aloud and find it difficult to open up and chat about what we’re reading according to the GIR model. Control is also an issue, as every carer tells me. Looked-after children have never had any control over the biggest, most distressing aspects of their life (such as who they can live with), and as a result many try to control the smallest of things to compensate. In a one-to-one reading session this can be particularly difficult if the young person has little interest in reading! Along with all of this, every young person has many complicated psychological and emotional difficulties flying around their heads that they need to learn to understand and cope with. Behaviourally this can be presented with anxiety, aggression, being withdrawn or hyper-active.

With all of this it is understandable that school and relationships with friends and family can be extremely hard for these young people to manage.

I feel really privileged to be able to work with the young people I meet in such a positive way. Whilst it can be very tough to get them to engage with the reading session, it is wonderful to be able to value every contribution they make. By placing no pressure on each young person, gradually they respond to the sessions with more enthusiasm and interest. As a one-to-one session, it gives them the chance to pursue their individual interests and develop their own approach to understanding and enjoying stories and poetry.

It is wonderful when the moment happens, and the young person ‘discovers’ reading. This has taken anything between 2 weeks and 6 months! The 6 month-er, a girl aged 12, was always very reluctant. “I don’t want to read today, can we finish early?” This question was asked every week without fail! When we started The Invention of Hugo Cabret she was really surprised how much she liked it: “Can we keep reading? I’m not usually like this but this book’s very interesting!” We are now reading Wonderstruck by Brian Selznick. Every week she is fascinated, excited to start the story, asks lots of interesting questions (ranging from space, to God to history) and is upset when it is time to end, “Oh no! Can you read a bit more please please?!”

This chance to bring young people out of themselves, to help them develop their interests and explore imaginatively the world we live in through the world of reading is so much fun. Many of the young people have such limited aspirations, so helping them to see the world beyond their experience is immensely important.

TRO Santas: Running to support looked-after children

The work we do with looked-after children is so important and to give them a special holiday will be wonderful. It’s only with your help that we can raise funds and make it happen. Please donate what you can by visiting our online fundraising page – everything, no matter how big or small, will make a huge difference.

Santa Dash: Training Update #2

There really isn’t long to go now until the Santa Dash, so things are definitely stepping up several gears. Our Dashers are now in possession of their respective red and blue suits (I think you’ll agree that they look rather dashing – pun intended in the hope that they’ll gain some extra speed along the way) and rivalries are very much in effect…(now, now – we’re all on the same team. But some healthy competition can’t hurt…or at least we hope it doesn’t – we can’t risk the injuries)

Scrapping Santas (calm down, calm down...)

We’ve already heard from the Blue team; now it’s time to get a report from the Reds – in particular, from our receptionist Michelle, who tells us how she got involved – or was slightly coerced – into joining the TRO Santa Dash crew and how her training is coming along…

The first day of a new job is usually very nerve wracking. You’re in a new environment and subject to polite interrogation by your new, subtly intimidating, colleagues. The best thing you can do in my book is keep your head down and pray that your subordinates go light on the runt.

Not in my case….

I sat shy and hunched, squirming in my swivel chair, trying to come across as aloof and as comfortable as possible. The office was full and everyone was busy, tapping away on their keyboards.

“Do you run?”

The tapping ceased and everyone peeped up. The question came from Niall, I recognised him from my informal interview day. He had shoulder length hair at the time; today it was shaven.

Great – I’m being ostracised by the office yob already.

“Do you run?” he repeated. I was miffed. “Erm…sometimes”, I lied.

“Great, do you want to run the Santa Dash then?”

And that was how it started. That is how I had my arm twisted up my ‘too new to say no’ back…!

I worked quietly throughout my first week and a half, hoping that no-one would remember my agreement. I’m terrible at running – think Phoebe from Friends crossed with an over fed sausage dog. However that irksome fundraiser Niall was right on my case.

Hence, I have started a rebellious training programme to gear me up for the 5k run. I’ve heard Boost bars are full of glucose so I’ve been feasting on the energizing delights, plus an extra layer of fat is sure to help me through that freezing, December morning. ‘What physical training have you under gone?’ I hear you say….well, I’m yet to put my feet to gravel; however, I have been getting lots of tips from watching Usain Bolt clips on YouTube.

The Santa suit is another thing which worries me slightly. My boyfriend Jack ran the Santa Dash a few years ago and his Santa Claus pants fell down during the race. Now that would be enough to put you off your Weetabix if that happens to me!

Anyway, I’ve devised a cunning plan with the help of our Business Manager, Zoe Gilling. She’s going to bring her two little elves and we’ll push them around the course in their prams. A race I can walk – ho ho ho!

Much more in keeping with the festive spirit

Although the Santa Dash is a great chance for people to have fun and jog off the previous night’s hangover, the real cause behind it is the fundraising. Here at The Reader Organisation our aim is to raise enough money to take a group of underprivileged children on holiday. Whilst we all make plans to visit family, swap gifts and celebrate, a lot of children don’t get this opportunity and Christmas is another isolating time in which their often very sad realities are magnified.

If you can make a donation you can do so at our online donation page; if you have any queries or questions whatsoever please don’t hesitate to contact The Reader Organisation’s fundraising team on 0151 207 7207.

We’re doing well up to now, but we need more – the call comes to you to keep on giving; anything, big or small, will make a huge difference.

Santa Dash: Training Update #1

It’s mere days until our TRO Santa Dashers set off at the starting line, running to raise funds for very important work with looked-after children. All twelve are training hard in preparation – and of course, there’s an added competitive element to proceedings as it’s Reds vs. Blues. Who will emerge victorious? We’ll have to wait and see – but rest assured, everyone is feeling the burn.

Here’s a training diary from Mike, member of the Blue half of the Santas:

‘Cut me open and I bleed Liverpool red’ – so said Steven Gerrard when pledging his allegiance to his boyhood club; as we’ll see on Sunday, however, there are two colours in Liverpool vying for supremacy, and I’ll be representing the blue half of town when I run in this year’s Santa Dash. As a Man United supporter running in Liverpool, I felt duty-bound to wear the lesser-known blue Santa outfit in order to show solidarity with the Evertonian side of the city, and I’ve been in intensive training to prepare myself for the big day.

Mike limbers up for training (not in a blue suit...)

Preparation started in earnest when I bought some new trainers a couple of weeks ago, and since then I’ve been pounding the tarmac of the Blackpool suburbs in order to achieve peak physical fitness. I even dug out an old Santa outfit in order to acclimatise myself to the conditions I’ll be facing on race day, which I hope will give me a decisive advantage as the finish line approaches. (I’m only wearing a red one for training purposes – I’ll be in blue on the day!)

There might not be many mince pies left in Liverpool since Andy Carroll moved down from Newcastle, but we’ll be hungry for victory in what promises to be a keenly contested derby. As Steven Gerrard might say, we’ll be taking it one step at a time and giving it 110 per cent, and, y’know, hopefully getting a result at the end of the day.

Hopefully this isn't a picture of things to come...

Apart from demonstrating the superiority of teams in blue, what we really want to achieve is to raise money for our work with looked-after children and young people. All donations will go towards an adventure holiday in the Lake District for the young people in care who we read with, and a mystery day out after Christmas. If you’d like to contribute to this good cause and help our valuable work with children, then please visit our fundraising page here. Thanks!

Everything you can give will really help support looked-after children.

Santa Dash: how you can support our runners

As you may know, twelve TRO staff will be pulling on their red and blue Santa suits, scrapping it out to reach the finish line first (all in a very friendly manner – of course) and taking part in the Santa Dash 2011 in just over a week’s time – all to support The Reader Organisation’s vital ongoing work reading with looked-after children and young people.

To do it, they need your help! Over to the Blues team manager Niall…

If you like the idea of helping us fund raise for a holiday next year for looked after children, you can download this poster and very kindly forward it on to your contacts. Or you could publicise our run and what we are fundraising for on Facebook or Twitter – that way even if you can’t give anything to this magnificent cause you can still do your part. Or if you can make a donation you can do so here.  If you have any queries or questions whatsoever please don’t hesitate to contact The Reader Organisation’s fundraising team on 0151 207 7207.

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It really is a wonderful cause and everything will go towards giving these children a very special day to remember. So whatever you can give to support our Santa Dashers will be very much appreciated.

The Reader’s Derby

Now, as we all know, the Santa Dash we’re about to run is supposed to be all Christmassey and that, and Christmas isn’t a time for, oh let’s say – petty rivalries. Well that has kind of gone out the window now that we have six red Santas and six blue Santas! What was that? Sounds a bit like a Merseyside derby? Well, we are wearing the colours, even though we’re not playing the beautiful game.

In the red corner hailing all the way from Stanley Park… The lean, the mean Liverpool machine:

Chris C (team manager) National Development Manager, Chrissie H Project Worker, Michelle B Receptionist , Jen T Communications Manager, Zoe G Business Manager, Eamee B Wirral Apprentice.

And in the blue corner, hailing all the way from Gladys Street in Everton. It’s Everton’s School of Science Hard-knocks:

Niall G (team manager) Community Development Assistant, Sophie P Assistant Development Manager, Anna F Young Person Project Worker, Charlotte W Hope Reader in Residence,Mike B Former Communications intern,Frank S The Husband of our Events Manager.

I’ve always wanted to be a football manager – and I am aware this isn’t quite football but I’m still partial to the odd Alex Ferguson-esque insult or ‘mind game’ as they call it in football. Here goes:

“Chris, you and that team are going down!”

Wow, that felt good.

Just to be clear, we are running to raise money for a holiday and a day out for the looked-after children we read with next year.  Please do your bit to help make this special thing happen for these children by donating here, it’s really easy.

A Host of Dashing Santas

For the first time ever The Reader Organisation will be undergoing the 5K Liverpool Santa Dash, raising money for the looked-after children we read with. And, it’s the biggest Santa Dash in the world… ever! We will (I hope) be running, though I’ve had word that there will be some people walking whilst pushing prams (is that safe with 8,000 Santas running alongside?) – perhaps tell the children that Santa isn’t real the day before, otherwise it could all get a bit messy (I apologise to any children reading this). He is real really, though he didn’t bring me much last Christmas – I must have been naughty – well, I’ve been extra good this year and the first thing I’m asking for is for you to sponsor us and help support our work reading one-to-one with looked-after children.

So far half of the people who have their names down are wearing BLUE suits – not red ones – bitter blue? Or fashion accessory blue? Well, that depends what camp you’re in. Me, I’m wearing it to represent the blue half of the city; a few others are wearing blue so they can stand out from the crowd… A few others are just feeling blue (I think).

Anyway, enough of all the blue talk… We are doing this run to help raise money to go towards an adventure holiday away in the Lake District next summer for the young people in care that we read with, and a mystery day out after Christmas. So if you can spare anything to go towards this cause, we and they will be more than grateful – please visit our fundraising page now – be the first.

A Great Big Huge THANK YOU

Thank you to everybody who sponsored our reader runners, we are 100% grateful for your generous donations and I think it’s fair to say that most of the runners have healed up and got over any lingering knee problems by now.

In case you were still wondering about which of our three teams won, well that was Jen’s team consisting of Jen, Sophie, Anna and Mike. With what was actually a lightning time of around 100 minutes between them! They came 3rd out of all of the 20 charity teams!

Second place was my team consisting of Me, Beth, Lynn and Michele who came in with a not too shabby time of 107 minutes and finished a respectable 6th in the overall charity team rankings.

And last but certainly not least was Lee’s team, who, due to circumstances beyond their control (they only had three people in their team and thus were not eligible for proper placement) they finished 19th out of 20 teams – even with Dave’s brilliant time of 24 minutes!

So again another great big massive thank you for helping us raise a grand total of £562.50 to go towards our work with looked after children.

Have a great weekend.

Reading With Children – Benefits on a Grand Scale

Just in case you haven’t noticed, plenty of The Reader staff ran the 5K in Liverpool the weekend before last, raising money to support our work reading with looked after children. We were recently given compelling evidence by Young Person’s Project Worker, Anna Fleming, of how this work helps young people in care massively. Of course, this is not the only example of such work and knowing what the money raised was going towards was a great motivation for the unfit members of the team whilst training and on race day itself. (Not naming any names, not out of politeness, but it would be quicker to name the people in shape).

A mixture of adrenaline, fear, excitement, dread and distraction.

A July 2010 report from The University of York named ‘Estimating the life-time cost of NEET: 16-18 year olds not in Education, Employment or Training’ indicated that fairly modest investment in ‘youth support projects’ can save massive amounts of public money in the long run.

As the title suggests, the report focuses on 16-18 year olds, but includes an alarming statistic with regards to children in care:

In 2008 only 14 per cent of looked after children obtained 5 A*-C grades at GCSE compared to 65 per cent of all children.

Roughly speaking that’s just under a fifth of looked after children doing as well as the national average in their examinations, a series of results that have a massive impact on an individual’s future. Hopefully since 2008 this gap in the figures has narrowed somewhat, but it is discomforting if not surprising, that so many people should be held back by a factor as arbitrary as their domestic/familial situation in the 21st century. The Reader Organisation’s one-to-one work with looked after children aims to remove these obstacles, giving children the chance to read exciting and enjoyable material in a relaxed environment outside of school.

One of the nation’s biggest problems at the moment is unemployment, especially for young people. Those leaving care and/or and school without the best grades or a college/university place are likely to struggle. The University of York looked at how much NEETs were likely to cost the taxpayer over their lifetimes. The least conservative estimates arrived at a public finance cost of £32 billion and resource costs of £76 billion – similar to the budget of a small/medium government department at the time.

In the Executive Summary of the report, the research team said that cuts in youth support projects could have damaging effects financially and for society as a whole as costs covering unemployment and criminal justice would increase massively. One case study showed that failure to prevent a young offender drifting into repeat offending can cost £2 million, whilst a modest investment of £7,000 can prevent this.

The research findings above are yet another reason to thank all of those who sponsored our 5k run. Not only are you helping to provide positive experiences for young people, but you are helping to protect them from falling into the 86% and establishing something closer to the equal footing in life these people deserve.

You can still sponsor our runners retrospectively by clicking here.