Medical charity fundraisers and exercise during COVID-19
The COVID-19 global pandemic has had a huge impact on financial stability to many households. Charity, it is said, begins at home, but doesn’t end there as there are many less fortunate than ourselves. This is particularly true during this uncertain time of COVID-19 with redundancies, closure of industries and lack of childcare due to school closures. Unsurprisingly, these are more likely to affect the lowest earners in our society.
I was grateful that the public has supported the NHS so generously over the last few months; the hot meals donated were a definite morale booster. Yet I also feel uncomfortable that so many others are more in need. There was an 81% increase in the need for emergency food parcels in the first surge of coronavirus; and 1.8 million people signed up to Universal Credit. Furthermore the income for charities is under threat; as Trends has previously posted. Indeed, big sporting fundraisers, such as the London Marathon, are postponed or cancelled and charity shops closed. On average, charities report that they are expecting a 24% reduction in total income for the year which equates to a £12.4 billion loss in total.
Lockdown was challenging enough, but some have spent time completing sporting challenges to raise money for charity. Indeed, exercise is one of the few ways that people can find mental and physical freedom (albeit locally) during lockdown. The first notable sporting challenge of lockdown started on Instagram by 27-year-old Olivia Strong, who saw people running and thought a simple ‘run 5, donate 5, nominate 5’ would create a spread (ironically) in charitable donations. The result was many sweaty selfies on social media, including celebrity faces, and raising over £2 million for NHS Charities. Since then the two, charity and exercise, have been a fruitful partnership despite COVID-19.
I say exercise, but by far the highest fundraiser came from Captain Tom Moore who walked 100 laps around his home totalling 2.5km (1.6 miles) and surpassed £30 million in fund raised. He inspired the nation that efforts of the individual could help the many; namely the NHS and those affected by COVID-19. Furthermore, with many separated from elderly loved ones and VE day occurring during lockdown, he reminded us of an inspiring generation who gave us our today.
Being indoors did not stop people challenging themselves to do ridiculous sporting endeavours for charity. This includes two friends from my running club (Midnight Runners) – George Watkins running a marathon in his garden (15/04/2020) raising £3,500 for the NHS. Plus, Jessie Lewis completing an Iron(wo)man in her house (‘swam’ indoors using pulleys, a home spin bike and a local marathon route outside) raising over £600 for Mencap (5/5/2020). Other friends have found ingenious ways of continuing hobbies indoors, such as Max Raymond building a climbing wall in his staircase. There were also multiple reports of people climbing the equivalent of Everest on their stairs. Indeed, home workouts via apps, social media and (of course) Joe Wickes have become the new ‘normal’ as gyms and fitness classes are cancelled.
Then as exercise became unlimited, other charitable endeavours were attempted, although still within the constraints of government advice. I decided, along with BSoT (BAUS Section of Trainees) committee members to organise a ‘virtual fun run’. This asked our urology community to do an exercise of their choice (run/ walk/cycle) during the week of what would have been our BAUS Annual Meeting; participants then uploaded a photo to Twitter with the hashtag #BSOTFunRunforTUF and donated to The Urology Foundation. Over 90 participants took part and raised over £2000. It was amazing to see the response all over the UK, the sporting efforts and the (slightly) competitive nature of urologists! Perhaps even more impressive is my cycling-mad brother Will (Scott) and his friend Matt Exley who were planning a charity cycling challenge from Lands End to London ‘too see how far they could get’ on the Summer Solstice; but was cancelled to due COVID-19 restrictions. Instead they cycled 500km sunrise-to-sunset doing 146 laps of the same 3.5km circuit raising over £2000 for Mind.
Exercise has proven mental and physical health benefits, which Trends has also previously discussed. I enjoy running and the sense of freedom it brings; there is nothing like the simplicity of fresh air and greenery while exploring my local area. The COVID-19 Lockdown has seen sportwear buying habits and exercise patterns change. Therefore, I hope that these healthier pastimes and habits will continue, and these charitable endeavours will inspire us to donate. Sadly, there are more in need and less people able to help. Yet we can all help others during this unprecedented time – no matter how large or small the gesture. This can include supporting food banks, encouraging people’s charitable challenges and organising your own fundraiser – what can YOU do to help?