Saints Sport is challenging stu- dents to walk, cycle or row a cu- mulative 2022 miles and raise £2022 as part of the British Inspiration Trust’s BRIT Challenge, which funds young adult mental health and physical fitness programs.
Following the extremely successful fundraising efforts this fall – including Movember, which raised over £42,000 – the BRIT challenge hopes to “raise awareness and provide dif- ferent opportunities for encouraging students and staff to get active,” said Fergus Knight, assistant director of commercial operations at Saints Sport.
The University said it hopes to “encourage as many people as possible across the St Andrews Community... to get involved.”
To that end, Saints Sport staff and coaches will be setting up exercise bikes and rowing machines around campus, including halls of residence, the Students’ Union, and several ac- ademic buildings. An exercise bike and rowing machine have also been stationed in the Saints Sport lobby since the beginning of the challenge and have attracted participants such as Jess Smith, athletic union president, Professor Tom Brown, Vice Principal (Research and Innovation), and Director of Sport, Stephen Stewart.
Additionally, the Triathlon, Boat, Cross Country, and Athletics Clubs have enthusiastically entered teams of three to try and compete with other clubs; other members havecompleted challenges individually.
“With the opportunity to do the challenge from home, the hope is that many more people may have engaged with the challenge and completed their mile in their own way too,” Knight said.
The University has supported British Inspiration Trust events and campaigns since 2012. It has participated in this challenge since 2020, when BRIT Challenge fundraiser and CEO Phil Packer visited St Andrews to launch “Row Britannia,” which highlights the need for accessibility in sport.
Each partnering university is able to split any funds raised between BRIT and a charity of their choice.
Saints Sport has chosen to direct its donations to The Perfect Day Foundation, which supports athletic activities in Zambia as a resource for physical and mental wellbeing. The Foundation, Knight says it is “a collaboration established in 2004 between leading UK universities (now including St Andrews) who support the work of leading Zam-bian sports NGO, Sport in Action.”
The Perfect Day Foundation is the official charity of the Wallace Group, which is working to develop a network of community sports across Zambia. The Perfect Day Foundation “was founded in 2008 by student alumni from the project to ensure that those who have participated in Volunteer Zambia have a way to continue making a difference and contributing when they return home,” Knight said.
The University is one of seven top sports universities in the UK that send 50-60 students and staff each year to Zambia as volunteer coaches to further the development of sport through the Foundation.
BRIT will split its proceeds between several charities, including Student Minds, a student mental health charity, MindOut, which provides support for those in the LGBTQ+ community, as well as training on how best to support community members, and Shout 85258, a confidential text hotline for those struggling with their mental health. BRIT aims to change mental health into a “societal concern” and to “encourage early intervention and action.”
BRIT also noted plans to use the money raised to address student mental health problems that have been exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic.
“The pandemic has had an impact on young people’s mental health and the ability of charities to fundraise normally, for example, by staging events like this,” said Duncan Caithness, Saints Sport assistant director of sports development.
Saints Sport also hopes that this challenge will help destigmatize men- tal health and raise awareness for the resources available to those struggling.
“Saints Sport recognises the benefits coming from having an active lifestyle and aspires to increase levels of participation and improve health, wellbeing and quality of life at all levels across our community,” Knight said.
“The BRIT Challenge provides an additional platform through which we can encourage more people to be active by engaging in sport and physical activity, whilst also helping to destigmatize mental health for students and staff.”
Image: Abbie Mason