The ever growing team known as The Calendar Lads has completed another challenge in aid of good causes.
The group was initially made up of male A&E staff who bared all for a naked charity calendar a few years ago.
As the idea was developed following the death of a young man due to testicular cancer, it was also an awareness raising initiative.
Since then, they have done a main challenge and other activities each year. They take on a guest charity for the year, along with Northumbria Healthcare NHS Foundation Trust’s Bright charity.
With the group growing each year, dozens of people recently did a 62-mile walk along the St Cuthbert’s Way trail from Melrose in the Scottish Borders to Lindisfarne on the Northumberland coast in two days.
Ashington resident Craig Leathard, charge nurse and nurse practitioner at the Northumbria Specialist Emergency Care Hospital near Cramlington, was the driving force behind the calendar and he is still heavily involved with The Calendar Lads activities.
He said: “Our dedicated team with the help of our army of supporters have recruited people of all ages and abilities to help endorsing and promoting our motto ‘We are inclusive not exclusive’.
“From our army of people knitting fiddle mitts proven to reduce agitation in people with dementia to our challenge team who complete yearly gruelling physical challenges, we work together to help others.
“We’ve now raised tens of thousands for charities such as the NSPCC, Mind Active in Bedlington, the Orchid men’s cancer charity, an education centre for children with Down’s syndrome and this year’s guest charity HospiceCare North Northumberland.
“It has become a community – with people from organisations and charities that we’ve helped in previous years coming on board the following year.
“The support during the St Cuthbert’s Way walk was fantastic. We even had farmers and people pulling up in their cars making donations.
“Our friends from the hospice and Niall, our youngest team member who has Down’s syndrome, were waiting for us at the finish on Holy Island. We’ve already raised more than £7,500 so far this year.”
In addition, members of The Calendar Lads have organised schemes in support of groups of children.
They run a Safe Kid project where the members involved provide an interactive safety day with all frontline services aimed at delivering an important safety message to children.
They have linked up with Northumberland College in Ashington so they can act as buddies to younger people just needing that little bit of guidance and confidence as they make their way onto the employment ladder.
Craig said: “One success is a young lad with cerebral palsy who after countless failed applications has now with our help secured employment – something that remains one of our proudest moments.”
They have also started a new scheme this year. They write light-hearted individualised poems for children with neuroblastoma, then each child’s family chooses the next recipient.
For more information about the various activities, go to the Calendar Lads Challenge Facebook page.
To make a donation to the team, visit www.justgiving.com/fundraising/CalendarLads2017