“I am in awe of the staff at YMCA East Surrey,” says 3 day Bruges Challenger, Loo Loo.
“They are such a strong, enthusiastic and caring team. When you see the work that is done here, it gets into your blood and you can’t resist becoming more and more involved.”
Loo Loo, 51, sits on the Children’s Services Committee but prior to this year had never taken part in one of the Challenge events which aim to get people active and raise unrestricted funds for our charitable work.
“Last summer, I felt envious of the enthusiasm I saw in those who were taking on a Challenge event,” she says. “Their positive attitudes were inspirational and, even though I’m not a cyclist nor very fit, I decided to sign up for Bruges 2015.”
Despite an overwhelming first training session and difficult first day, the experience turned out to be a hugely positive one for her.
“My bike was the heaviest in the group and, on the second day, it was pouring with rain and there was thunder and lightning. My toughest challenge of the whole trip was making it up the longest, hardest hill into Dover. I gritted my teeth and didn’t walk once. When I’d cleared that hurdle, I felt that I could tackle anything.”
For Loo Loo, the camaraderie that she found within the Challenge group was the high point of the event.
“Everyone was so supportive and encouraging,” she says. “The team spirit and organisation was amazing and we had so much fun. When we finally reached Bruges, the sense of achievement was incredible. If I’d had the chance, I would have happily turned my bicycle around, given the Eurostar a miss and cycled all the way home too!”
In 2015, the Challenge programme had around 2,500 participants. Plans for the coming year are to get even more people active and reaching their personal goals, while raising funds for the new Inclusive Sports Facility.
“I think the YMCA touches everyone in our local area,” says Loo Loo. “So many people come to a party or after school activity with their children, use the gym or join in the annual Fun Run and yet they still don’t fully appreciate all the wonderful services that the YMCA has to offer. The Challenge events help to support these and I would recommend getting involved to anyone.”