–A team of teachers, governors and ex-pupils joined together in 2014 to cycle from Liverpool to Paris in a fund-raising effort to raise awareness and funds with a mental health focus following the death of one of Calderstones Community Comprehensive School’s most popular and revered teachers, Mr Phil Gibbons.
Assistant Headteacher and PE teacher, Allan Preston (pictured, right), decided to organise a Tower2Tower bicycle challenge from Liverpool’s Radio City Tower to Paris’s Eiffel Tower, and challenged fellow members of staff, governors and ex-pupils to join him. Sixteen drawn from the school community accepted the challenge to undertake 500 gruelling miles, in just five days, in July 2014.
Following lots of fundraising and preparation for the journey, on Sunday 27 July 2014, the group of cyclists sped into Paris, tired not only from riding from the north of England after multiple hundred-mile days, but also many months of training rides in hail, rain, wind and the blazing sun.
They sacrificed Sunday lie-ins and experimented with strange-tasting nutritional powders to fuel their pedalling. Some suffered mechanical failures and skirmishes with speeding traffic; others testing their bodies to the limit to reach their sporting goal.
Riding from Radio City Tower in Liverpool to the Eiffel Tower in Paris, the gruelling ride raised awareness about mental health issues but also over £20,000 for Imagine Independence, a Liverpool mental health charity.
Support and communication between the community of Calderstones became the driving force for publicising the event with fundraising, community involvement and a logo-design competition which allowed local primaries to get involved, showing their support for what Calderstones School was trying to achieve.
Maths teacher, Stephen Duffy and Robin Ireland, Chief Executive of local health charity, Heart of Mersey and school governor, were tireless in coordinating much of the challenge through the creation of the Tower2Tower website (www.calderstones.co.uk/t2t) and using social media (@Tower2Tower2014) to garner support and sponsorship.
Ultimately, the primary aim of the ride was to raise awareness of this difficult topic and turn a devastating negative into something positive, not only for Mr Gibbons’ family and friends but for the young people in our community who may now have a better understanding that there is help out there and that when times are hard, we can pull together as a community and achieve something special.
Speaking to UKEdChat at the 2014 Merseyside Educate awards, Alan Preston expanded on the story, “We lost one of our teachers, who took his own life. Unfortunately, the mental health provision nationally is simply not good enough. We came together as a community and decided we needed to raise a significant amount of money for that cause. We raised just short of £20,000. What everyone got out of it was phenomenal. There were 16 riders and 4 support staff involved”.