A CRICKET legend was in Harrogate last Friday to encourage people to take up challenges for charity.
Alec Stewart OBE visited Saint Michael’s Hospice and was keen to promote the Yorkshire Three Peaks Challenge, which takes place in June.
Five people have already signed up to take part on behalf of Saint Michael’s and England’s most-capped cricketer urged people to organise their own physical challenges.
He said: “The Yorkshire Three Peaks Challenge is tough, but more importantly it is rewarding and when you raise money for Saint Michael’s you are raising money for an incredibly worthy cause. “I think raising money to support the charities that do such vital work in your own community is one of the greatest gifts you can give.
“And getting the blood flowing is just as important as the community element of challenge fundraising. Doing it all of your own volition is very rewarding.”
Mr Stewart enjoyed a tour of the hospice, meeting some of the patients and staff who care for people affected by terminal illness and bereavement. The chief executive of Saint Michael’s, Tony Collins, said: “To have one of England’s great sportsmen encouraging people directly to raise money for Saint Michael’s and to do so through physical activity and exercise is inspiring, and we hope even more people take up the challenge set.”
Last year, challenge fundraising events raised £120,000 for Saint Michael’s and increasing numbers of people are keen to take on something which also benefits their health.
Mr Stewart was in Harrogate after an invitation from Yorkshire Bank, which has chosen Help for Hospices as its charity. The company has already raised £20,000 for Saint Michael’s through fundraising events, including trekking the Great Wall of China in 2009 and taking part in last year’s Yorkshire Three Peaks Challenge. Six people from the bank have also signed up for a fundraising trip to Machu Pichu, Peru, being organised by Saint Michael’s later this year.
The former England captain - the most capped England cricketer of all time - also visited St Aidan’s High School to give a coaching session to enthusiastic youngsters. He signed bats for students and held a question and answer session with the sports science group, who asked about his test career and the pressures of being a professional sportsman.
Headteacher Dennis Richards said: “It was a fascinating visit. Alec Stewart met several staff and students heavily involved in cricket at the school, including teachers who run the cricket teams. He was particularly interested in the debate about the survival of cricket in state schools and congratulated us on our determination to continue the game on a competitive basis.
”The students really appreciated the visit. For the tiny minority who have a chance of success at the highest level in a whole range of sports it gave an intensively personal insight into what it feels like to perform in front of 80,000 people with the eyes of the world on you.
“The older students were interested in the psychological aspects of top-class sport and Alec Stewart’s visit and talk also provided some very obvious lessons about commitment, teamwork, focus and determination which apply to fields other than sport.”
Taking advantage of the school’s reputation for nutritional school meals, Mr Stewart also enjoyed smoked salmon sandwiches and salad. He then went on to host a networking event at Bettys in the town centre.
Yorkshire Bank’s business partner Andy Hay, who helped organise the visit, said: “The St Aidan’s visit went extremely well and the pupils and staff really enjoyed meeting Alec. We’re grateful that he gave up time in his busy schedule to visit Harrogate.
“The afternoon corporate event also went well. There are lots of parallels between being successful in sport and in business including leadership, tenacity and team work and the business people certainly enjoyed his talk as well.”
l To find out more about taking part in challenges for Saint Michael’s, telephone 01423 879687.