Fundraising for Ridgepark's Outdoor Gym
Scottish Autism’s New Ridgepark is a fabulous transition unit on the outskirts of Lanark. Nine individuals currently reside there ranging from 19 to 35 in age, and all have a diagnosis of autism. Due to the challenges these young men sometimes face, accessing community facilities such as gyms and swimming pools can result in a lot of stress and anxiety.
Knowing regular exercise is important for wellbeing, I thought it would be beneficial if we could provide a facility within Ridgepark that would support this. In March 2017 I sought permission and advice from my Service Manager to start fundraising for an outdoor gym to be installed within our walled garden. This would give the individuals we support unlimited access to exercise equipment that they could choose to use within an environment where they were comfortable. I knew New Struan School and Clannalba had already installed such equipment with great success.
During the planning stage we also decided to fundraise for a multi-use porta cabin to be utilised as an arts and crafts room, family room or just a quiet space for the individuals we support. Fundraising for this would continue after the gym was purchased. The gym and the extra room would provide the service users with two much needed new resources.
I sought quotes from several companies for the gym and submitted these for approval. Once this was done and we knew the amount that had to be raised, the fundraising could begin in earnest. Scottish Autism’s fundraising team were invaluable in the support and advice they gave us and the opportunities they provided to assist us in raising funds.
Fundraising started off with small initiatives such as football cards but quickly gained momentum thanks to the amazing effort and enthusiasm of a large number of staff at Ridgepark. Many staff, after a little encouragement, threw themselves into a wide range of activities to raise funds. A bake sale was organised (several staff baked for days for this), while others gathered prizes for the raffle/tombola and volunteered on the day. Their effort made it a roaring success along with support from the local community and local shops in helping us raise an amazing amount in a few hours. Other staff put their life on the line by jumping out of planes, doing bungee jumps and abseils and several staff signed up to do the Great Scottish Run’s 10k.
Several wonderful community groups have also supported us by raising money.
As a result of all this effort, a phenomenal amount was raised in a very short period of time and we were well on our way to reaching our target.
A bid was then put in to the ‘Tesco Bags for Help’ grant scheme and thanks to local community support and a good number of staff doing ‘extra shopping’ there and choosing Ridgepark for their blue tokens, we managed to secure the top amount which resulted in us hitting our target for the gym in April this year and an order was placed.
Installation of the outdoor gym was completed in July with several service users so excited about it that they could barely wait until the concrete was dry to get a ‘shot’.
It has been a great success with both service users and staff using it on a regular basis. Service users spend a lot of time in the garden especially with the better weather this year. To see them using the equipment independently or sometimes with a little encouragement from staff is so nice to see.
Ridgepark had also attained gold status in the Health Working Lives Award. Staff being so active in raising funds and utilising the gym ties in with the principles supporting this and will hopefully support us to maintain this award in the future.
It has been a fantastic honour to have had the opportunity to lead such an initiative. The gym is a definite success and has been the most worthwhile project I have ever been involved in. It was also a great learning experience to have had the opportunity to be involved in the process from start to finish. As well as seeing the gym installed and knowing the benefit it will provide service users with for years to come, it has also been great to see the way staff pulled together and the effort they put in to help achieve this. It was so nice to see them achieving goals by doing activities they wouldn’t have taken part in otherwise and getting a sense of achievement while helping to raise money as well. This also had a positive impact on the working environment within the service.
Well done to everyone involved. It has been an amazing achievement!
Fundraising for our new multi-use porta cabin has been postponed, for now, as we work on the plans for a new respite service.