Volunteering for Crohn's & Colitis UK
by Michelle Batey
Spending a lot of time at work doing the job we do in the Product Specialist Team is one of the most rewarding opportunities I have ever had in life, touching so many lives. In mid May we had another opportunity for any help we may be able to offer. The request was very simple - could anybody spare 1 day to volunteer to help Crohn’s and Colitis UK with their WALK IT Newcastle on the 27th May. As the event was close to where we are based it was only natural to offer support in any way possible so, I contacted the group and within 4 days a welcome pack arrived.
Along comes Saturday and off I set on my travels to Leazes Park in Newcastle on what started to be a beautiful day of glorious sunshine. On arrival we helped to set up stalls and get things ready ahead of walkers arriving and, to my great pleasure, thoroughly enjoyed playing in the life size bowel tunnel. What a great tool this was! Never in my days did I expect to say I would be walking through a larger-than-life imitation bowel passage! There were lots of things like this to see and experience, tailored to suit the needs of babies, toddlers, children, teenagers and adults. They even offered bandanas for dogs! Why do this? Well simply because every little helps to raise awareness.
As volunteers and staff finished preparing in the park ready for all our walkers to arrive, I headed down towards Newcastle Quay side where I route marshalled at the 7K point of a 10K journey which the walkers had committed to doing. The things I saw amazed me that day; people had travelled from up and down the country, some younger, some older, some in pushchairs, some in their wheelchairs, some with dogs, others with groups of family members, all with the same focus in mind. To raise awareness of Crohns and Ulcerative Colitis (IBD) and associated diseases. The weather was very hot and sunny, yet not once did I hear a moan or a grumble, as each and every walker passed me from the first to the last, I saw nothing but happy, jolly, smiling faces. All grateful to stop and have a rest at the bottom of a mammoth hill they had to walk up and back down again and then up another. I bore witness to some of the gruelling challenges faced by some walkers, the time and effort it took to plan ahead, backpacks fully equipped with nutritional drinks, medicines and water to keep the body hydrated and as optimal as could be. Safe to say there are so many challenges involved living day to day life with these conditions and not once in any of the photos can you tell who has been affected and who hasn’t or one unhappy face – not even as the last finishers were crossing the line and the heavens opened with downpours of torrential rain! The determination and impact these amazing people made that day was great. I was stopped by so many members of the public asking questions about what was happening and why. Many of them were not aware of IBD and how it affects others but were keen to learn. These events really do exactly what they aim to - raise awareness and help to broaden understanding, give support and guidance and raise money to keep the charity up and running to provide such services.
What an inspiration and a pleasure it was to attend and be able to help with such a good cause. I’ve since learned that over 375 walkers took part, 30 volunteers helped and over £18,000 was raised! What a fabulous occasion to take part in. I had the most eye opening amazing day and look forward to the future events they will be running in the North in the future. I would encourage anybody and everybody to keep an eye across their areas, as these events are running throughout the year up and down the country, and every bit of support they can get is really welcomed and appreciated. You are so well cared for and looked after. If anyone can make any time to support Crohn’s & Colitis UK, or has family or friends who could offer a few hours of their time, I know they would be extremely grateful.
Michelle Batey works for ConvaTec as a Product Specialist