How GoodGym and Bexley Mencap teamed up to make a difference in their community

Nick Marsden is a keen runner and volunteer. Each week he leads a Keep Fit group for Bexley Mencap members who have learning disabilities. Members of his group have previously worked alongside their local GoodGym group, and a couple of weeks back a few runners from the group joined the GoodGym Bexley group for their first ever GoodGym task. The members of Bexley Mencap have been there since the start of GoodGym Bexley; when they launched last year, the Keep Fit group hosted the very first GoodGym run task at the Bexley Mencap office and the group helped clean the alleyways around the office.

Nick says, "On Monday nights, I run a keep fit class at the Crook Log Sports Centre for Bexley Mencap members with learning disabilities. Every week the class would finish as Tim and the GoodGym runners would arrive to start their warm-up. So every week we’d say a quick hello and goodbye to each other. Since then you might say that Bexley Mencap’s association with GoodGym Bexley has been a case of revolving doors - at least that’s how we've got to know each other - from familiar faces to running partners."

As some of the Mencap group members started to get fitter, they started to see Tim and some of the GoodGym runners more regularly at the Bexley parkrun, just across the road in Danson park. Now, four members of Bexley Mencap have actually joined their local GoodGym and are not only getting fit but also taking an active part in carrying out good deeds to help their local community.

Nick continued, "It’s wonderful to see the positive benefits in their outlook and enthusiasm as they get more involved in local activities. The neighborly partnership that GoodGym and Bexley Mencap have forged has made a real difference to both organisations and their members."

Here's how Chris, Emmanuel, Matt, and Robert spent their first official GoodGym session:

A year after the first visit, we asked GoodGym to clean the alleyways around our office again. We met Tim and the team outside the sports centre as usual and instead of saying goodbye, we joined them on a warm up run (or warm down run in our case!) Our destination was the Danson Youth Centre who needed some help taming an overgrown garden.

Matt helped Deborah with weeding the front borders and brushing the pavement, while Chris and Emmanuel headed round the back with the rest of the group to cut the hedge and donned some gloves to weed the garden. Matt usually helps out with gardening for a special needs college (a dustman's holiday for him!) while Chris is a caretaker at a local school - so both of them were no stranger to a brush and a pair of cutters. Emmanuel is relatively new to the area so joining the GoodGym group task is a great way to get to know people and gain more confidence.

The group were full of enthusiasm and encouraged each other to work hard on pulling away the weeds that had become entangled in the hedge. In no time at all, several refuse bags were full, before Tim called time on proceedings.

Some of the feedback included:

  • It was great to combine running with some work for the local community and also to be part of such a welcoming team.
  • It doesn't matter what skills or abilities you have. Every task is important and it needs to be done, however big or small.
  • Pulling up the weeds and mucking out together is a great leveller and provides an opportunity for everyone to get involved.

Matt, Chris and Emmanuel are all volunteering as part of Mencap's Gateway Beacon Bronze Award (similar to the Duke of Edinburgh's Award, for people with learning disabilities). Volunteering with GoodGym is a great way for everyone to get experience so they can meet the criteria for the award at the same time. This run was a perfect opportunity of how GoodGym provides an opportunity to help the learning disabilities community and of to help the rest of the community.