19 May 2022

Walking challenge raises thousands for children's mental health initiative

The County Derry Sports Editor presented a cheque to his local primary school last week.

Walking challenge raises thousands for children's mental health  initiative

County Derry Post Sports Editor Michael McMullan and his daughter Erin present a cheque to Mrs Patricia McMaster, principal of St Brigid's PS Tirkane/Bunscoil Naomh Bríd with the fundraising proceeds.

The County Derry Post's Sports Editor has raised over £3,000 through a daily walking challenge to help a children's mental health programme at a County Derry school.

Having set himself the challenge of walking for 100 days in a row, Michael McMullan contacted St Brigid's PS Tirkane/Bunscoil Naomh Bríd a few months ago to see if he could help with fundraising.

Principal Mrs Patricia McMaster said she was delighted to take his call.

“Michael simply telephoned me at school and explained that he was undertaking the 100 days challenge,” she said.

“He was thinking of raising ‘a few pounds’ and hoping to do something to help promote pupils’ mental health as he felt that the pandemic had had a negative impact.

“I was delighted to hear about the fundraising plan and then mentioned the PATHS programme as a resource I’d heard about from colleagues in other schools.

“Michael liked the sound of it and we agreed that he would aim to raise money to allow the school to purchase the programme and then roll it out across the whole school.”

The PATHS (Promoting Alternative Thinking Strageies) programme is designed to improve children's mental health and well being through a series of daily activities alongside more long-term programme.

Money raised from the challenge will be used to purchase the PATHS programme for Primary 1 to Primary 7, including teaching manuals and visual aids.

Mrs McMaster said the Covid-19 pandemic had exacerbated an already existing need for mental health education.

“Mental health and well-being have always had a place in the primary curriculum but have been given a much higher priority following the Covid 19 lockdown and the following restart for pupils,” she said.

“The lockdown impacted on children in a variety of ways. Some felt isolated from their friends and extended family member during periods of isolation.

“Teachers spent time during remote learning lessons and following the school restart trying to calm pupils and reassure them that all would be well.

“They have been focussing on developing pupil self esteem and resilience as we all settle back into a very different school environment, and talking about their feelings and emotions.”

Michael handed over a cheque to the school last week for £3,500, with the PATHS programme set to be rolled out in school by the end of the 2020/21 academic year.

“I wish to congratulate Michael on his dedicated fundraising effort throughout his 100 day walking challenge and for his generosity in donating the £3500 to the school,” added Mrs McMaster.

“This financial contribution is very much appreciated and the new resource will hopefully have a very positive impact of pupils mental health for many years to come.”

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