Community Champions

Celebrating charity work and good deeds in the Wiltshire and Swindon business community.

Construction firm staff raise over £15k for Asperger’s and autism charity

Written by Peter Davison.

Staff at Swindon-based construction company Beard have raised £15,344.75 for local charity Discovering Autistic Spectrum Happiness (DASH), which supports adults in Swindon with Asperger’s and autism.

The donation comes as part of a company-wide, year-long fundraising appeal in celebration of the firm’s 125th business anniversary.

The significant sum was raised over 12 months by the firm’s Swindon staff through numerous fundraising events.

DASH is an independent local charity with a mission to improve the quality of life of adults of working age with high-functioning autism and Asperger’s living in Swindon.

It aims to help people with autism enjoy safer, healthier, more sociable, more productive and happier lives.

Beard’s Swindon director Marc Bayley said: “I’m extremely proud of all our Swindon staff who have worked really hard to raise this money. DASH is such an important charity which has helped so many people living with Asperger’s in our local area.

"I hope that our donation will help the DASH team continue their valuable work which is making a difference to people’s lives in our community.”

Money raised by Beard’s Swindon staff was match-funded by The Beard Charitable Foundation. Set up in 2016 by the Beard family, The Beard Charitable Foundation provides funding support to Beard employees in their charitable and community pursuits across the South of England.

It also makes grants of around £20,000 annually, as well as strategic donations to local charities for projects which promote construction industry careers.

DASH manager Adrian Embling said: “DASH is enormously grateful for the time and effort so selflessly donated by everyone at Beard.

"It was heartening to hear that everyone had such a good time at the fundraising events. It is an astonishing achievement and means we can reassure our service users that their social groups can continue for another year.

"This affects the lives of many adults on the Autistic spectrum. DASH social groups are often the only social outlet for many of the people who attend."

Companies challenged to take on the Great Wiltshire Walk

Written by Peter Davison.

Julias' House Devizes team prepare for the Great Wiltshire Walk L-R Heather Philpotts, Lisa McGill, Sam Roberts, Jess Lowe and Lisa BradburyCompanies are being challenged to take on a new walking marathon that shows off the best of Wiltshire to raise money for Julia’s House, the Dorset and Wiltshire children’s hospice charity.

The Great Wiltshire Walk on Saturday, July 20 will take in 26 miles of some of the county’s most breathtaking countryside.

Beginning and ending at the Kings Arms pub in picturesque All Cannings, walkers will take in landmarks including three White Horses, a hill fort, ancient defences and a stone circle, as well as stunning view.

Organiser Hannah Miller, the charity’s challenge events manager, said it is an ideal team activity for staff.

“It’s a great day of walking, sightseeing and team bonding, plus the teams can help a really great local cause,” she said.

Organisers are promising a chance to savour historic landmarks such as the site of Oldbury Castle, an iron age hill fort near Cherhill, White Horses at Devizes, Cherhill and Alton Barnes, wildflowers, Neolithic monuments and pretty villages while to fundraise for the local children and families supported by Julia’s House.

“We have a very popular Jurassic Trek in Dorset that has had hundreds of people taking part every year for the past four years and we thought that north Wiltshire would be perfect for a similar walk. The Sarsen Trail, which followed a similar route, is no longer running so this is an ideal alternative," said Hannah.

“It will give people taking part the opportunity to see the very best of Wiltshire, finishing with the wonderful views of the Vale of Pewsey. At the end we’ll have music and a free hog roast with a celebratory glass of prosecco.

“All money raised from the trek will help us care for life-limited children locally and give respite to exhausted mums and dads.”
Everyone taking part will receive fundraising support from the Julia’s House team, as well as support on the day. Along the route, which will be fully signposted, there’ll be refuelling stops with water and snacks. There will also be medical support available.
Registration for the event costs £30 and all walkers get a free Julia’s House t-shirt and a route map. All finishers will be presented with a medal. There are discounts for teams, depending on numbers taking part.

The charity hopes walkers will each be able to raise £200 each for the charity. “We really hope it grows into a much-loved annual event that people want to come back and join year after year,” said Hannah.

“Julia’s House is a local charity working in the community, funded by the community. Without the generosity and support of the public and local businesses there would be no Julia’s House. We rely on public donations, fundraising and legacies for 95 per cent of the money needed to run our vital service for local families.”

Sign up for The Great Wiltshire Walk at


White Horse Challenge open for entries

Written by Peter Davison.

Immy Hellawell of MHA Monahans, Clive Milner of Rocking Horse Nursery, with dog Teddy, and Graham Drake of RygorWiltshire’s iconic white horses are gearing up for an influx on charity walkers with the launch of this year’s White Horse Challenge.

Organised by chartered accountants MHA Monahans, van and truck dealer Rygor, and the Rocking Horse Nursery in Melksham, this year’s challenge will take place over the weekend of 7 and 8 July and poses walkers with challenges of between 7 and 52 miles.

All funds raised by the walkers go to the Wiltshire Air Ambulance and since the White Horse Challenge was started in 2006 over £147,300 has been raised.

There are four event challenges to choose from, with the Complete Challenge taking place over the two days and walkers will cover 52 miles, taking in seven of Wiltshire’s white horses and walking from Devizes to Marlborough on a 27 mile route on day one, and back on a 25 mile route on day two.

There is an option to camp overnight, with tents set up by the organisers ready for a night’s rest and a cooked breakfast in the morning.

One day challenges are available as well and walkers can choose to join either the 27 mile route on Saturday or the 25 mile route on Sunday.

Relay challenges are open for teams of four or more and a mini challenge will take place on the Sunday. The mini challenge covers seven miles and is an ideal option for families and novice walkers who want to take part and raise much-needed funds for this vital local charity.

Speaking on behalf of the co-organisers, Immy Hellawell, events assistant at MHA Monahans said: “This is the 13th year that the White Horse Challenge will take place and we’ll sure that this will definitely be a lucky one.

"An incredible amount has been raised through the previous 12 challenges for the Wiltshire Air Ambulance. As a self-funded charity, we feel the Wiltshire Air Ambulance is an incredibly important charity to support and raise money for.

"The work they do is vital to the local community and we are honoured to be able to give back to this fantastic cause.
“We had over 100 people take part last year and so we hope to beat that this year and continue supporting the Wiltshire Air Ambulance as much as we can.”

Graham Drake, Owner Director at Rygor, said: “Rygor is really proud to once again support the White Horse Challenge this year. The Wiltshire Air Ambulance is a charity which is very close to our hearts and carries out such vital work for the people of Wiltshire.

“This year, the team at Rygor has voted to support Wiltshire Air Ambulance as one of our three 2018 Charities of the Year, with a total fund-raising target of £6,000 split equally across the three charities, in addition to the support of staff and vehicles for the White Horse Challenge.

"It is fantastic to see that this event alone has raised more than £145,000 for WAA since its inception in 2006.

“This is a momentous year for WAA as it finalises the development of a new, purpose-built airbase and HQ in Melksham, whilst still needing to raise more than £3 million to keep the Helicopter in the air. This is why we are delighted to be able to continue to support this worthy cause.”

For more information about the White Horse Challenge, or to register for the walk, visit


Planning for a sporting event ‘like financial planning’

Written by Peter Davison.

Alice DouglassTraining for a major sporting endeavour is like financial planning and tax year end, according to a Highworth professional who should know – she’s doing both.

Financial advisor Alice Douglass is training for the four-day, 308-mile London to Paris bike ride in August this year, and likens her training to the financial planning she does with her clients.

“To train for any challenge requires careful planning,” said Alice.

“Milestones need to be reached by certain timescales and if they aren’t plans need to be adjusted or expectations altered.

“If I fail to do sufficient training for the London to Paris bike ride, there is every chance I will not be able to fully complete the ride.”

If clients start planning for their financial futures early, says Alice, it means that their goals are more likely to be met.

If they leave this too late, they may need to adjust their expectations or, if planning for their retirement for example, work for longer.

Alice is, by her own admission, a complete novice cyclist who has only recently got onto a road bike for the first time since she was in her teens when she had a “racer” bike.

She has got a training plan mapped out and has taken on the help of her neighbour who is a bit of a cycling expert.

“Woody [my neighbour] has provided me with all of the equipment I have needed, including the bike, we have mapped out a plan together and he ensures I am keeping to it.”

Alice sees Woody a bit like a financial advisor – advising her on the best equipment is like her recommending the right investment vehicle for her clients, the training plan is like the financial plan Alice works on with her clients.

The annual reviews Alice has with her clients to make sure they are on track to achieve their financial objectives are like Woody ensuring Alice is sticking to the plan.

An important milestone for Alice will be when she goes out wearing her cliques, which she has only worn at spinning so far.

If she falls off on the first attempt, she is sure she will get back on the bike.

For anyone doing their financial planning, an important milestone is also approaching – tax year end.

“If this deadline is missed, you cannot “get back on your bike” and certain tax allowances will be lost,” warned Alice.

Alice aims to raise £1,800 for Neuroblastoma UK, which raises funds for research into the rare childhood cancer. To sponsor her visit


Volunteering programme hits the right note with radio station

Written by Peter Davison.

DukeBox radioLandlord and developer Aster Group has helped renovate a new radio station at Wellington Academy in Tidworth, as part of its volunteering initiative.

Gordon Moody, a painter and decorator at Aster, has helped finish the year-long project – led by Baz Reilly, a teacher and presenter on DukeBox, the official radio station of the Wellington family of schools.

As part of its paid volunteering scheme, Aster arranged for Gordon to spend three days with Baz, helping repaint the studio and surrounding corridors.

Baz said: “I’d worked on the project for over a year and a half so to finally see it finished is just incredible.

“I can’t thank Aster enough for arranging for Gordon to help with the finishing touches. Without the help it would have taken a lot longer to finish. He did a great job and put in a lot of extra time to ensure it was all finished.

“Lots of people have commented on how good the studio looks. It looks professional, it’s great to work in, but most importantly the kids love it too.”

Gary Prince, operations director at Aster said: “We’re always happy to support our local communities and we encourage our employees to donate their time and skill to helping projects like this.

“A lot of Wellington pupils live in our homes and it was an added bonus to be able to help a project that will benefit not only the community, but our customers as well.”

Aster is committed to supporting its local communities and gives its employees the opportunity to volunteer 150 working days each year to support projects just like this one.

Construction firm staff raise £15k for Radiotherapy Appeal

Written by Peter Davison.

Alan Beard, Beard deputy chairman, with Chloe Thomas, Brighter Futures fundraising manager, and Marc Bayley, Beard Swindon director Staff at Swindon construction company Beard have raised £15,344.75 for the Brighter Futures Radiotherapy Appeal to equip a new radiotherapy satellite centre planned for Great Western Hospital (GWH) with vital clinical equipment.

The donation comes as part of a year-long, company-wide fundraising campaign in celebration of the Faraday Road-based firm’s 125th business anniversary.

The sum was raised over 12 months by the firm’s Swindon staff through numerous fundraising events.

Beard’s Swindon director Marc Bayley said: “I’m extremely proud of all our Swindon staff who have worked really hard to raise this money for the Brighter Futures Radiotherapy Appeal.

"The new satellite centre will make a huge difference to patients’ journey times for cancer treatment enabling them to have radiotherapy much closer to home.

"We’re delighted to have been able to contribute to this extremely worthy cause which will benefit cancer sufferers and their families in our community.”

Swindon and many areas within Wiltshire are one of the very few parts of the country which currently do not have access to radiotherapy services for cancer patients within a 45-minute travel time.

Around 700 patients annually make the arduous 70-mile round-trip to the Churchill Hospital in Oxford for radiotherapy. Treatment usually lasts for a period of four to seven weeks, made up of daily visits.

Money raised by Beard’s Swindon staff was match-funded by The Beard Charitable Foundation. Set up in 2016 by the Beard family, The Beard Charitable Foundation provides funding support to Beard employees in their charitable and community pursuits across the South of England.

It also makes grants of around £20,000 annually, as well as strategic donations to local charities for projects which promote construction industry careers.

The Oxford University Hospitals is investing £17.7 million to bring the much-needed facility to Swindon and Brighter Futures is fundraising an additional £2.9 million which will contribute towards the purchase of important clinical equipment within the building.

The appeal total currently stands at £2 million.

The new radiotherapy unit at the GWH site will be a satellite of the Oxford Cancer & Haematology Centre which is based at the Churchill Hospital.

Catherine Newman, Brighter Futures’ head of fundraising, said: “For over 10 years, local people have campaigned and called for radiotherapy to be provided in Swindon.

"The Radiotherapy Appeal offers a chance to make this a reality and support the biggest improvement in cancer care that Great Western Hospital has ever seen.

"Thanks to the incredible fundraising efforts of Beard we are now a step closer to seeing this dream turn into a reality.”

Beauty therapy company gives free manicures to encourage smear tests

Written by Peter Davison.

Jessica WallbridgeBeauty therapy company Honestly Ombré is promoting a campaign encouraging women to have smear tests by offering free manicures to those going for check-ups.

Smear test screening has fallen to an all time low with only 62 percent of women attending a screening in 2017, yet in the UK, cervical cancer affects 3,000 women every year and is the biggest killer of women under the age of 35.

Jessica Wallbridge, founder of the Swindon Old Town-based business, had precancerous cells removed that were identified during a smear test.

“I’ve had personal experience of precancerous cells being identified and removed at a young age that were picked up during a routine test, if I had waited much longer to get a test it isn’t worth thinking about what could have happened,” said Jessica.

“By offering a simple incentive such as free manicures, I want to encourage others to get checked. There is no limit to the campaign, and if I end up doing 100 free manicures, then it would be worth every single hour for me, knowing that I could have potentially saved somebody’s life.

“Almost 1,000 women in the UK die from cervical cancer every year. This is tragic given that the disease is treatable and the prospect of a complete cure is good when cervical cancer is diagnosed at an early stage. If I can contribute in some way to making the smear test experience a positive one, I’ll count the campaign a success.”

Honestly Ombré is encouraging other businesses to become involved in the campaign by using the #NailYourSmear hashtag to raise awareness and by creating their own campaigns to help increase smear test screening attendance.

The campaign runs until March 31.

“The feedback on social media so far has been amazing, and I’ve had lots of women contact me, sharing their experiences," said Jessica.

“I want to break down the perceived social stigma regarding smear tests that can often make women feel embarrassed or avoid going for these critical check ups. 

“We need it to be normal for women to talk about their smear tests, and if I can encourage just a handful of women get past the hurdle of booking or going for their test, then it will be a success.”

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