‘It was one of the best experiences of my life’ - students show support for annual Dorset Walk, which has raised over £100,000 in seven years but is now in a melting pot

Jack Emery and Nathan Doherty

Jack Emery and Nathan Doherty - Credit: Archant

A much-loved and “truly inspiring” charity event – The Dorset Walk - involving staff and students at Ely College faces an uncertain future because of the time of year when it traditionally takes place.

The Dorset Sponsored Walk in aid of The Malcom Whales Foundation

The Dorset Sponsored Walk in aid of The Malcom Whales Foundation - Credit: Archant

Each July for the last seven years, staff and current and past students at the school have taken part in the walk to raise money for The Malcolm Whales Foundation.

The foundation, which has a personal connection to many at the school, was set up by Damien Whales in memory of his late father who died of bowel cancer. It has since raised over £100,000.

Damien Whales is an assistant principal at the college and is believed to have been in talks with the governing body and the principal Evelyn Forde about the proposed changes.

He declined to comment but is believed to be concerned that a charity effort that has been so successful might suffer if the dates are changed. The college is thought to want a change of date to ensure students do not miss valuable learning times.

The Dorset Sponsored Walk in aid of The Malcom Whales Foundation

The Dorset Sponsored Walk in aid of The Malcom Whales Foundation - Credit: Archant

However some of those who have taken part in the walk have contacted the Ely Standard concerned that a proposed change of date – to the Easter half term - may not draw sufficient support.

Jack Emery, a year 11 student at Ely College, is one of many who say they have been left “disappointed and disheartened” by the school’s proposal to cancel the annual charity event.

Most Read

Jack, of Little Downham, believes that if the dates are changed it could spell an end to the walk.

“The predominant argument against the walk is that valuable learning time is wasted,” the 15 year-old said. “However, school trips to Disneyland, Berlin, France, Belgium and various other places are not mentioned.”

The Dorset Sponsored Walk in aid of The Malcom Whales Foundation

The Dorset Sponsored Walk in aid of The Malcom Whales Foundation - Credit: Archant

He said that year eight students are also taken out for whole days, several times throughout the school year, to do “reception duty, which is basically handing out letters to people across the school and sending messages”.

Jack, who took part in the walk for the first time last year and raised over £100 to help children with cancer, added that he was really looking forward to doing the walk again.

“Everyone that has taken part in previous years is disappointed and disheartened.

“Why a charitable event has been attacked is a mystery considering that people who take part in the walk develop so much because it is both a physical and mental challenge.”

Jack said the assistant principal Lisa Tomlinson has suggested the charity walk goes ahead during the Easter holidays instead. But by doing so he thinks it will make the event less successful.

He said “That’s when the year 11’s will be revising for their GCSE’s. Whatever way they get around it its either going to affect students when they are revising or when they are going away on summer holidays.”

Evie Jackson, another year 11 student, said she and many others are devastated by the news.

“The walk inspires others, raises money and awareness for a great cause, challenges people, educates students, and is an amazing opportunity to have fun, make friends and get fit.

“It was one of the best experiences of my life,” she added.

“Not only that but it makes the lives of others, not as fortunate as us, a great deal better - due to the thousands of pounds raised for people with cancer.

“The walk had its ups and downs (literally), but by challenging yourself to overcome the toughness of the walk, it is a great skill to learn, especially for us year 11’s, preparing for the transition to sixth forms, apprenticeships and employment.”

Another year 11 student, Nathan Doherty, said the Dorset Walk was one of the greatest weekends of his life.

“It taught me to overcome a lot of challenges and helped me mould friendships.

“Not only did the Dorset walk help me to challenge myself physically, it taught me the beauty of the Dorset coastline, a place I now love and hope to travel back to many times in the future.”

He added that the main reason he enjoyed the trip was due to the fact that everyone was doing it for a great cause.

“That really drove people to push the extra mile. For myself, the feeling that I was helping a charity as I walked gave me the confidence to carry on.

“I felt extremely upset upon hearing the news and just hope that this article can help change the decision”, he added.

Jay Fullarton, 15, from Ely, raised over £100 by completing the Dorset Walk last year.

He said: “I find it horrendous that the cancellation of the Dorset Walk was even being considered. I had a fantastic time on the walk; it was a fun and educational trip that happens for a very good reason.

“Trips like this should be embraced, not cancelled.”

Oscar Edwards, aged 15, said: “The trip itself gave me experiences with my friends, unobtainable from regular school life.

“Many of my friends faced challenges they may never have dreamed of experiencing anywhere else, both physically and mentally; these both improving their physical and mental health as well.”

Ely College has declined to comment at this time.