Running, jumping and throwing for mental health

Athletics is often associated with running, jumping and throwing.  Joseph Gale, who is Deputy Head of the Royal Alexandra and Albert School, is including all three in a challenge to raise money for mental health initiatives at the School and for Young Minds, a children’s mental health charity. 

First running.

On 16th May, Mr Gale will be running round the School’s 260-acre park for 12 hours non-stop. This means he will run the equivalent of two marathons, or all the way to Brighton and back in a single day.

Mr Gale, who oversees the School’s pastoral provision, is an avid runner and usually runs six times a week. However, this is a challenge that will be testing and pushing his running endurance to the limit. He has devised a route around the largest of the School’s three lakes, and while scenic, the route contains two steep inclines, one of which is affectionately refered to as “The Gatton Killer” by the School’s pupils.

Secondly jumping.  Or, in this case, show jumping.

To support Mr Gale’s fundraising campaign, the School’s Headmaster has agreed to learn to show jump if Mr Gale reaches a fundraising target of £3,600.  The whole school community has rallied behind the cause. Two colleagues, Ruth Kingston and Trista Gladstone, are also showing their support by walking the route for 12 hours.

Thirdly throwing.

Children will be able to throw balls for the therapy dogs that Mr Gale’s fundraising efforts will pay to train. Therapy dogs are key to Mr Gale’s vision of supporting his pupils. Half of the funds raised from his challenge will be used to pay for two dogs, who already call the School home, to be trained as therapy dogs. This will include Mr Gale’s own Labrador, Max.

Speaking of Max, Mr Gale said, “He is highly energetic and has a wonderful temperament. But more than anything he is a very affectionate dog and my children love him. When we go for walks around site the boarders love playing with him and he is a regular member of our school running club. By training him as a therapy dog, we hope to develop his ability to support young children. Therapy dogs have been shown to encourage communication by providing comfort and decreasing anxiety, and I can think of no better way for a child to receive support than with the help of a lively and affectionate dog.

Having worked with children for a long time, I know that most children are adaptable and will be coping well with the changes in our daily lives. However, for a small number of children, the current situation will have a significant impact on their mental wellbeing, and for them, this may be the most significant hidden consequence of this pandemic. The plan is to make people aware of this, and to fundraise so that we as a school can put in place therapy options and strategies that pupils will respond positively to, as well as support Young Minds’ brilliant work.”

Parents have praised Mr Gale’s epic running challenge, saying it is “amazing” and that “not all heroes wear capes”. Many have donated but the fundraising effort is only half way there.  

“The support has been fantastic,” said Mr Gale of his community’s backing. “I know that so many people across the country are doing similar things, to help in whatever way they can. It isn’t going to be easy, but I’m doing this for the best cause possible. My pupils are important to me and I want to show them that we are here for them, if they need it.”

15 May 2020

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