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Walk the Walk came into being 19 years ago when just 13 women Power Walked the New York City Marathon in their bras to raise money and awareness for breast cancer. What started out as a one-off fundraising event, has blossomed into a thriving multi-million pound charity, raising to date in excess of £99 million for vital breast cancer causes.
The charity was founded by Nina Barough who at that time ran her own production company. Nina woke one morning with what seemed like a ‘fun’ idea to Power Walk the New York City Marathon in decorated bras to raise money for a good cause. What makes the beginning of this story so magical is that Nina at that time had no experience of fundraising or taking part in a marathon nor did she know anyone who had been affected by breast cancer.
In November 1996 the dream became a reality, and after much training and fundraising,13 courageous women took to the streets of New York in their bras. In truth they were all signed up for a fun weekend in New York however it resulted in the team raising over £25,000 which was then donated to Breakthrough Breast Cancer Research (now merged with Breast Cancer Campaign to form Breast Cancer Now) to contribute to them building the first dedicated centre for research into breast cancer.
Word soon got around and people started to call Nina asking if they could join her next walking challenge. Due to her work commitments it was doubtful if that would happen, but then fate intervened.
In January 1997, only 2 months after the adventure to New York, Nina not only discovered she had breast cancer herself but that it was an aggressive tumour, which she had most probably had for about 3 years. As a result her world was thrown upside down as she had to give up her business and embark on a programme of treatment including a mastectomy followed by radiotherapy, with a 2 year course of Zoladex injections and Tamoxifen. As is often the case in difficult times, those around her felt very helpless so it seemed that at the height of the Spice Girls and Girl Power, to encourage a team to Power Walk the London Marathon would be a really positive way of supporting her.
The 1997 London Marathon was another huge success for the Walkers raising in excess of another £25,000. Only 3 days after the marathon the first Walk the Walk auction was held to sell their bras that had been designed by celebrities such as Paul Smith, Mary Quant, Richard Branson and many more. Only days later Nina was admitted to hospital to begin her treatment.
In the spring of 1998, Walk the Walk entered its second team into the London Marathon. 25 Walkers claimed their place, however there were 25 who were not so lucky. Not wanting to disappoint them or waste their hard earned fundraising or training, Nina decided to create a one off marathon for these girls. The intrepid 25 grew to 65 and, on the eve of the London Marathon, they set off at midnight on Saturday with the intention of completing their marathon by 7.00am Sunday morning and passing on the ‘baton’ in Trafalgar Square to the girls that would be walking the official event. Nina and a girlfriend actually completed both The MoonWalk followed by the London Marathon, a total of 52.4 miles within 24 hours… The MoonWalk was born!
By 1998 it was clear that word was spreading. Nina took the first steps to find sponsors that would help her to fund the setting up of an official charity. The rest, as they say, is history!
It is hard to believe that Walk the Walk has only been an official charity for such a short time. Nina had managed to turn a simple idea into a dynamic charity which promotes a healthy and fit lifestyle and at the same time raises significant funds for vital breast cancer causes. Nina’s passion for healthy eating and exercise has inspired many others; in fact joining Walk the Walk is often described as a life-changing event. Many women and men who have never power walked or been involved in any sort of fitness before are becoming ardent walkers. It appears that Walk the Walk is achieving its goal of encouraging women and men to become more aware of their own potential for healing and for maintaining good health and wellbeing.
As a grant making charity, it means that everybody taking part in their challenges is raising money for Walk the Walk. The charity then looks at various projects and campaigns that are involved with breast cancer and grants funds to where we know it will make the most difference. It is our policy to look at projects that perhaps would not easily find funding, and to those that would perhaps take many years to achieve their goals and assist them in reaching them in a shorter time. We support research, which we feel is our future, and certainly over the past 13 years some ground breaking research has been made, not only into the causes of breast cancer but also identifying cancer genes and consequently improving the treatments. We also fund emotional and physical support for those that have cancer now.
Our flagship events are The MoonWalks in London and Edinburgh, and The SunWalks in Newcastle, Bristol and Southampton. We also organise trips and walking adventures to other events throughout the country and indeed the world, encouraging people to keep taking on new challenges and to keep them motivated.
Since 2000 HRH Prince Charles has been a huge supporter of Walk the Walk, endorsing the ethos and values of the charity with his own values towards integrated and holistic cancer care, the benefits of organic foods and the support that we all need to give to the environment. Consequently in 2004 when the charity felt it was time to find a suitable Patron, he was the obvious choice and, fortunately for us, said “yes.”
Since making quantum leaps year on year, to date we have encouraged over 350,000 people to take on a walking challenge and raised in excess of £99 million. Our MoonWalk in London is now 13 years old and continues to support Breakthrough Breast Cancer with specific research projects, particularly The Generation Study. This is the largest study of its type and aims to track the health of over 100,000 women over a period of 40 years. We have also supported some key research into the benefits of integrated care for breast cancer, something very close to our hearts. Walk the Walk has been a big supporter of Penny Brohn Cancer Care for more than 10 years. Renowned for its work with cancer patients and integrated care. “The Bristol Approach” as it is known has been taken to many countries in the world and is the template for several similar organisations. Learn more...
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The MoonWalk Edinburgh has in just 4 years succeeded in raising over £9 million at this event alone. In the short time that we have had a presence in Scotland we have granted funds to The Breast Cancer Institute in Edinburgh and enabled them to not only completely refurbish the breast ward but also to build a new operating theatre that is linked to the ward.
We have granted funds to many NHS hospitals throughout Scotland from the Borders to the Highlands and even the Isle of Sky to enable them to purchase Scalp Cooling equipment. Whilst losing hair is not life threatening, it can be the final straw and quite devastating for cancer patients. These machines give the opportunity of retaining hair whilst undergoing chemotherapy treatment. Patients wear the cooling caps at the time of the treatment and to date some great results have been achieved with reports of patients retaining 60 – 90% of their hair.
Walk the Walk have also chosen to support Maggie’s Centres in Scotland with two projects. Firstly to be the principal funder for their second centre at the Gartnavel Hospital in Glasgow. With the first centre reaching capacity, this much needed second centre will make Glasgow the first city in the UK to have two Maggie’s centres.
Walk the Walk are also very passionate about the pilot project that they have helped to fund. The Outreach programme aims to take Maggie’s out to people living in remote places such as the Highlands and Islands. It is still early days but the reports so far are looking very positive. Learn more...
Having taken trademarks and licences in most part of the world, perhaps our most adventurous plan at the moment is to transport the dynamic energy, camaraderie and passion of The MoonWalk to other countries and allow them to receive the benefits of this amazing challenge that unites so many and achieves so much!
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