England Athletics has officially launched its Personal Best Foundation – a new charity that uses the power of athletics to support disadvantaged children and young people across England.
Sports stars, friends of athletics, and special guests gathered in London for an evening of celebration on Friday [18 November] to show their support and help raise vital funds for the Foundation.
Olympic and Paralympic athletes Christine Ohuruogu, Kelly Sotherton, Marilyn Okoro, and Vanessa Wallace were among those attending Drapers’ Hall for the event, which helped shine a light on the challenges facing 4 million children across the UK living with inequality and poverty.
It was also an opportunity to hear real-life stories of the Foundation’s trustees and ambassadors, including former world champion and record-holder Fatima Whitbread, who spoke about overcoming childhood trauma to become one of Great Britain’s most successful and best-loved athletes.
Also in the room were members of the record-breaking Team England from the 2022 Birmingham Commonwealth Games including Tom Bosworth, Emmanuel Oyinbo-Coker, and Abigail Irozuru, as well as rising stars from Thames Valley Harriers Athletics Club and Track Academy who shared their inspirational accounts of how athletics has made a significant contribution to their young lives.
Okoro, who won 4x400m relay bronze at the 2008 Beijing Olympics, provided live music on the night alongside 2022 European 4x400m champion Alex Haydock-Wilson.
“The Personal Best Foundation launch was a sensational night and I’m so glad I was there in the room to capture that energy, that sums up everything about athletics for me; community, passion, talent, excellence, and a whole lot of fun. I saw so many faces both old and new, I was even reunited with teammates I’ve made Olympic teams and podiums with. The best part for me is personally knowing the impact that the support from the Personal Best Foundation will make to help children and young people from underrepresented communities. I’m excited for all that’s to come.”
Vassos Alexander, presenter and endurance runner best known for bringing the sports news on the Virgin Radio Breakfast show with Chris Evans, hosted the evening and was delighted to be involved.
“I’m so excited that the sport I love is doing more, even more, to engage young and disadvantaged people and help them become their own ‘personal best’”, he said. “I feel privileged to have been involved.”
Mark Lawrie, chair of the Personal Best Foundation, said:
“We are delighted with the success of our gala dinner and fundraising evening. It now means we can begin to establish programmes that will help us achieve our charitable aims, supporting disadvantaged children from across England to reach their potential on the track, at school and in life. The Personal Best Foundation has been long in the making and we are delighted to be able to share our charitable aims with everyone, and work with our friends and partners to change the lives of children and young people from across England, helping them achieve their potential through the power of athletics.”
Gary Telfer, coach at Thames Valley Harriers Athletics Club, said:
“We were honoured to be part of the evening’s celebrations and it was an amazing experience for some of our young athletes to share their own personal experiences, the challenges they have faced, and the impact that athletics has had on them. I see first-hand the impact that athletics can and does have and I’m delighted that the Personal Best Foundation has been founded to support children and young people who may not otherwise get the same opportunities in sport and in life.”
An impressive collection of auction items on the night helped raise more than £20,000 for the Personal Best Foundation.
If you’d like to help change young lives through athletics, please donate and help get the Personal Best Foundation off the starting blocks via www.personalbestfoundation.org.uk