PUPILS at two North-East schools have become the first to receive free walking boots thanks to dedicated teachers partnering with a pioneering charity.

A pair of walking boots was presented to every Year 6 pupil at Ravensworth Terrace Primary School, in Chester-le-Street, and at St Mary’s RC Primary School, in Consett, by the Walk and Talk Trust, a North-East charity which works to promote the mental wellbeing and physical health benefits of regular outdoor walking.

Teachers from both schools took part in The Big Smile, a series of 50 fundraising walks organised this summer by the Walk and Talk Trust and backed by The Northern Echo. Fundraising, organised by the teachers in support of their efforts, has helped the charity to pay for the walking boots. 

Geoff Simpson, chief executive of the Walk and Talk Trust, said: “These two sets of presentations are the first of many throughout the region. Organising 50 walks that involved many hundreds of people was certainly challenging, but it was all worth it to see such amazing outcomes.”

Denise Thompson, head of Ravensworth Terrace Primary, said: "The children were genuinely thrilled to receive their boots. They all put them straight on, and the smiles, laughter, and chatter were heart-warming. One girl was walking out of school like she was on a catwalk because she loved her boots so much! They all said their parents were really impressed with the boots when they got home."

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Julie Huntingdon, Partner at Ward Hadaway LLP, presented the boots to the children in a special assembly held at Ravensworth Primary. Julie, who participated in the final Big Smile walk and whose firm are one of the sponsors of the campaign, said: "It was a really lovely afternoon. I was still smiling as I drove away from the school and watched the children proudly walking home in their new boots.”

Steph Hughes, Year 6 teacher and Special Educational Needs Co-ordinator at St Mary’s Primary, said: “Taking part in The Big Smile was a wonderful thing to do for us, it was great team-building, and we’re so glad to have done this lovely thing to benefit the children. We hope they’ll now find it easier to get out and about, and enjoy the beautiful area we live in.”

Keiron Young, walk leader of The Big Smile, added: “Hopefully, we’ve managed to inspire and equip these children and their families to go out walking more regularly. It is really very important for their mental health as well as their physical health that children connect with their environment, with nature and with people.

“The Big Smile is an annual fundraising event – and we are already starting to plan for 2022. If anyone is interested in their company getting involved with the campaign next year, please don’t hesitate to get in touch with us.”

For more information go to: www.bigsmileuk.co.uk

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