Encourage fitness with an active event

Run, walk, scoot or cycle: fitness fundraisers are the perfect community challenge

Active events are a great way to raise money for your school and help the community keep fit. Here are some of our favourite ideas.

‘One family chose to cover the distance on an exercise bike’

In 2021, one of our families took on a walking challenge based around the number 21 to raise funds for the Friends of Ysgol Porth y Felin, walking 21 miles before 21 January. It went very well, so we decided to get the wider school community to join in with an active challenge. We arrived at the name ‘Go the Distance’ at a PTA meeting – it was one of those lightbulb moments.

We’d seen other charities holding challenges to cover a distance in a set amount of time and looked at lots of different options. We promoted Go the Distance with the tagline ‘walk/cycle/scoot/skate/other’. The aim of offering so many ways to get involved was to make it as inclusive and accessible a challenge as possible. Reception children could go for a short walk or scoot, Year 1 could cover one mile, Year 2 two miles, right up to Year 6 children completing six miles. Most families walked and cycled but we know of one that chose to cover the distance on an exercise bike.

Ysgol Porth y Felin does a lot to encourage exercise and an appreciation of being outside, especially as we’re in Conwy – the gateway to Snowdonia. We held the event in the February half-term and heavily promoted the fitness benefits during the planning stage. Our headteacher joined in and walked a distance equivalent to his age over the holiday. His updates on ClassDojo helped motivate more families to join in.

In the end, we had 93 supporters on our JustGiving page and 27 families were mentioned. The event raised more than £1,400, which we put towards our fundraising goal of £2,000 for new outdoor play equipment for the junior playground – a great result for a cold February half-term.

We plan to hold a regular annual active sponsorship challenge with new variations each time to keep it interesting. These will be held in May when the weather is kinder.

Siobhan Watson, Friends of Ysgol Porth y Felin (360 pupils) 

‘Our 10k race attracts everyone from first-time runners to world champions!’

Lorton is a small village in the Lake District with a tiny school. But even though the Friends of Lorton School has just six committee members, we’ve set up a successful 10k running event with a vast amount of support from the community – many of the marshals live locally and our neighbours make most of the cakes for the event too.

The Lorton 10k is our most profitable fundraiser and has become a notable event in the Cumbrian running calendar. Organising the event can be complicated but it’s worth it – over the past nine years, we have raised more than £12,000.

People around here take their running seriously. All tastes and levels are catered for in the local clubs, from fell, trail or road running to fitness and triathlon clubs. Around 30 different clubs were represented at last year’s 10k but you don’t need to be a club member to enter. The main restriction is an age limit: runners must be 16 and over.

The idea came from former parent Andy Rodgers. He had taken up running just before his family moved to Cumbria. While living in Essex, Andy had noticed that a few schools were running 10k events and he was already involved in fundraising for our school when he realised we had a wonderful 10k route right on our doorstep. So he pitched the idea to the Friends of Lorton School and got the ball rolling.

Luckily, Andy knew a lady called Sam Ayres, a runner who had already set up a 5k event for BodyFit Cumbria. Her experience was instrumental in setting up our 10k. Together, they approached UK Athletics (UKA), who sent a risk assessment and information pack. UKA also sent a representative who biked the course three times, meticulously measuring the route. Working through it all was time-consuming, but it ensured we covered all aspects of holding a public running event.

As well as notifying the Highways Authority, we have to put a lot of thought into managing all aspects of road safety. A key factor is how many marshals you need. You cannot legally stop traffic but you can appeal to people’s better nature. The Lorton 10k passes through a section we call The Narrows, which isn’t wide enough for two cars to pass. We post extra marshals here to help manage the traffic and keep runners safe.

Other considerations are toilets, changing facilities, parking, signage and creating a one-way traffic route through the village. Because it’s a school event, safeguarding comes into play too.

We’ve run the race most years since 2012. It’s held in March to fit in with the training and events schedule of the more serious runners we are trying to attract. We have a real mix of entries, from first-time runners to world champions! Our course record holder is Ricky Lightfoot, a trail running world champion and World Long Distance Running Challenge medallist (32min 22sec, in 2012). The women’s course record is held by Catherine Spourdon, a runner from Cumbria who has also won the Borrowdale Fell Race and represented England (38min 08sec, in 2017).

Most of the money raised comes from the entry fee and the main prizes are sponsored by Lorton Village Shop. In the first couple of years, we made around £500 but as the event has grown, so have the profits. Our most profitable year was in 2019, when we made around £2,000. In 2022 we made more than £1,600.

The money is split between the Friends of Lorton School and Lorton School After School Club. The Friends supports activities such as excursions, gardening and cooking classes and forest school sessions. Over the years, we’ve helped fund a new playground and IT equipment. The After School Club uses their share to help cover running costs keeping the club viable in such a small school.

Watching world champions run alongside their parents and neighbours helps the children appreciate the benefits of running – an ideal way to promote good mental wellbeing through fitness and sport.

Caroline Searson, parent governor and co-chair, Friends of Lorton School (50 pupils)

‘The children come in PJs and stay in them all day!’

We ran our first bog-eyed jog in 2016 after hearing about one from a friend who was a chair on another PTA. It’s an early morning run in PJs straight out of bed – hence the name.

We ran the first one before school and only those children who wanted to participate came along. But it caused issues with registration and safeguarding, so we switched it to 9:15am the following year. The school staff are really supportive and they have taken over organising the run aspect of the event. We now also have a running path, making it easier and less messy in wet weather, although we let pupils wear wellies if it is raining! Parents don’t join in but can come along to watch.

The children run different distances: Reception pupils aim for six laps, Years 1 and 2 attempt eight and juniors try for up to 16 laps or 30 minutes.

After the children have completed the run, the PTA put on breakfast treats of brioche, croissants, drinks and fruit. Frugal shopping at supermarkets such as Aldi and obtaining donations from other supermarket community champions means we can usually feed the whole school for less than £100.

The children stay in their PJs all day and absolutely love it! Any child who isn’t keen can wear whatever makes them feel comfortable: girls might wear leggings and a top; boys often wear a football kit.

We award prizes for the most sponsorship, usually a voucher for a local business that we buy to give back to those who support us. The prizes create an element of competitiveness, which in turn increases the total amount of sponsorship.

At the moment, we still collect sponsorship the old-fashioned way using paper forms and cash but we are looking at setting up a JustGiving account. We hope to register for Gift Aid too, but since most of our committee work full-time, it’s always on the ‘needs-doing’ list and hasn’t yet been done.

The run is our biggest fundraiser! It takes very little planning, especially now we’ve been doing it for so long. Our sponsorship increases year-on-year, which is impressive given the current climate. This year we raised more than £3,100 and our total outgoings – the breakfasts and prizes – were only around £120.

As a parent, I know how hard it can be asking friends and family for sponsorship, so when the bog-eyed jog was such a success in its first year, we agreed to only ever hold one sponsored event a year. The children are keen to do a colour run, but I suspect it would have much higher outgoings and make less profit for the school. Our goal is to raise as much money as possible for the benefit of the children and the bog-eyed jog does that perfectly.

Kate Witkiss, chair, Friends of St Gregory’s Catholic Primary School, Chorley, Lancashire (218 pupils)