The Big 30: Thank you for taking part in our first virtual fundraising event 

Friday 3 July would have been The Big Walk 2020. This would have contributed a significant amount of funding to further our Parkinson’s disease research and although the walk couldn’t go ahead, the need to support this research is as important as ever.

Instead, we asked our University community to get behind our first ever virtual fundraising event, completing 30 things, either every day or over the course of the 30 days in June.

"A big thank you to everyone who has taken part in The Big 30, and to those of you who have made donations to support friends and colleagues.

"It has been fantastic to see our community come together for an incredibly worthy cause, particularly at such a difficult time. The creativity and enthusiasm behind everyone's challenges has been inspiring and I am delighted to say that you have raised over £23,000 for Parkinson's disease research, and counting!

"Your support will benefit patients by accelerating the ground-breaking research the University is carrying out into Parkinson's disease."

Professor Sue Hartley, Vice-President for Research

Big 30 thank you

The Big 30 Moment

From calligraphy to keepy-uppies, we've been really inspired by the creative challenges you came up with. We've put together a Twitter moment to take a look back on your fantastic efforts over June.

5,580 miles covered through cycling, walking and running. The equivalent distance from Sheffield to

266,329 feet climbed through cycling and staircases

Words from our challengers

Danielle Jackson

Danielle's fundraising page

What was your Big 30 challenge?

My challenge was to do at least 30km on a cross trainer every day in June to do a total of 1000km over the 30 days.

What was the highlight of your challenge?

Being blown away by how generous people have been with their donations and receiving all the messages of support.

Was there anything you found particularly challenging during the month?

Finding the time to fit the training in every day as it takes me over an hour each day to do at least 30km. I'm still working from home full time plus I have a two year old daughter at home. I've found myself doing the training at some unusual times this last month, from starting training at 6.30am before anyone is awake to training late at night (the latest I have finished on the cross trainer is 11pm).

What were your motivations for taking part?

Two of my grandparents were diagnosed with Parkinson's and I have seen the effect the disease has had on them and friends and family. It's an awful disease that slowly robs the person of themselves. Both my grandparents died within the last three years, with my grandad dying last October, so the University choosing Parkinson's disease research as their charity this year felt very personal to me and I always wanted to do something to help raise money for research into this. When The Big Walk was cancelled I knew I had to find a different challenge to be able to help raise money for this incredibly worthwhile cause.

How have you found taking part in a virtual challenge? Would you do it again?

It's the first time I have raised money for charity by undertaking a challenge and I have enjoyed doing so. While it is a bit different from taking part in an event that lots of people are signed up to I have still found the experience enjoyable. Because of my personal connection to the research I have never struggled for motivation to complete the challenge and would do another again. In some ways I'll be sad when June is over and I don't have to get on the cross trainer every day as it's been part of my daily routine that I've had to find time for for a month now!

Danielle Jackson with her daughter

Adrian Higginbottom

Adrian's fundraising page

What was your Big 30 challenge?

Average 30 miles for 30 day road cycling, so 900 miles in June. Three times more than I would normally do in a summer month in my free time.

What was the highlight of your challenge?

I rode with 11 different people through this challenge and the companionship was amazing, as through April and May my training had by far been solo cycling. After that it was just getting out into the amazing scenery and wildlife we have so close to our doors here in Sheffield, just an absolute joy every ride.

Was there anything you found particularly challenging during the month?

The greatest challenge was not the stupidly steep climbs (I am not a climber), it was the weather, strong winds and heavy rain that actually lost me two days, it just was not safe to venture out.

What were your motivations for taking part in the Big 30?

I have close friends living with Parkinson's disease, and I therefore know only too well how much life is a struggle for them to just do things we take for granted. Also through my work managing the drug screening facility in SITraN, I also know we only currently have symptomatic therapies, and the fund raising effort is to support work by a team that are actually targeting the cause of disease, a real need to improve life quality of patients.

How have you found taking part in a virtual challenge? Would you do it again?

Personally, the virtual challenge has helped me through this extraordinary time we find ourselves in, working from home I spend hours on the computer, so I needed something to make me get up and move, whatever the weather! This target has given me a focus, it has been tough finding the time, eating enough, and yet I still have lost 9kg, eating more than I would normally (which is a lot)! The challenge to make it include climbs that I have avoided and no two rides identical was also great for keeping the interest and motivation high.

Adrian Higginbottom on his bike

Hannah Jordan

Hannah's fundraising page

What was your Big 30 challenge?

100km over June and for Sam to beat his keepy-up record.

What was the highlight of your challenge?

Reaching 100km and finding that I actually enjoyed it! Also having my friends support me both virtually and in person, by running together with me and motivating me to run further and faster. For Sam, he has gone from four to 184 kick-ups, which is amazing.

Was there anything you found particularly challenging during the month?

Wednesdays and Thursdays... no motivation to run on those days, but that was when the support helped to keep me going. Also the heat, and the rain.

What were your motivations for taking part in the Big 30?

My mind is blown by the research and I love that it is unique to Sheffield - turning patient skin cells into brain cells in volume to research personalised treatments, it's incredible. Also, sadly, Sam's great-grandpa died of Parkinson's, and we never got to meet him, so we also took part in the memory of Ewart.

How have you found taking part in a virtual challenge? Would you do it again?

Yes, I really enjoyed it - obviously we set our own challenges but I set myself a hard one, and made myself run Monday-Friday before work each day. If we weren't in lockdown, I'd have been walking kids to school and commuting at this time - so lockdown has helped. It has also helped my sanity during this time of craziness and given me something positive to focus on. Sam was also delighted at his virtual school sports day when he got the most kick-ups in his class bubble!

A photo from Hannah's run

Matt Carré

Matt's fundraising page

What was your Big 30 challenge?

RED (Ride Every Day) June - Attempting to get out on my bike every day to complete over 600 km total distance and climb over 10,000m in height, a fair chunk of which is off-road.

What was the highlight of your challenge?

Getting to the end of the toughest week on day 28 and pretty much completing my distance and height targets.

Was there anything you found particularly challenging during the month?

Definitely the last week, just gone, when fatigue had set in and I was working long days, plus attending an international conference online every evening until midnight, plus I don't cope well with the hot weather (cramp for the last 4 days!)

What were your motivations for taking part in the Big 30?

It's a fantastic cause and I like doing things as part of the University community. I've done the Big Walk before and charity swims at Goodwin and always enjoyed them. It was also to spur me on to improve my fitness and get outside every day to escape the screens!

How have you found taking part in a virtual challenge? Would you do it again?

It was a very last minute decision to do this one (the last day in May), but I don't regret it. I've made connections with the other Big30ers via Twitter and feel part of one big team.

Giving people the freedom to set their own challenges also improves the inclusivity and it has been great to follow others' progress over the last 4 weeks. All in all, great fun for a great cause!

Matt Carre holding up his bike

Heather Mortiboys

Heather's fundraising page

What was your Big 30 challenge?

My challenge was walking at least 3 miles a day (totalling 100 miles in June) and to bake a cake each day.

What was the highlight of your challenge?

The highlight of my challenge was the bringing together of my local community for the challenge. Through sharing my cakes, I found out a lot about my neighbours and we really had a sense of community even more than usual!

Was there anything you found particularly challenging during the month?

The hardest thing throughout the month was to find time during busy days of working full time and homeschooling two children to bake cakes everyday but we managed!

What were your motivations for taking part in the Big 30?

I have dedicated my entire working life to researching Parkinson's so my motivations were to raise awareness of Parkinson's and to bring benefits closer for people with Parkinson's.

How have you found taking part in a virtual challenge? Would you do it again?

The virtual challenge has been great, and I would definitely do it again!

Heather Mortiboys

Minna Shkul

Minna's fundraising page

What was your Big 30 challenge?

Running 100k in local parks and trails, between Hunters Bar and Forge Dam. It might not sound much, but if you don't run at all, it's actually changed my life, for a month, at least.

What was the highlight of your challenge?

It's been lovely to discover how invigorating a morning run can be! It's been lovely getting out in the green spaces on summer mornings.

Was there anything you found particularly challenging during the month?

Yes, as a non-runner I have paid the price for slightly overdoing it, for my weight and fitness, and had to take a break in the middle to let my shins recover.

What were your motivations for taking part in the Big 30?

One of my best friends was diagnosed with Parkinson's disease at a young age, and I definitely wanted to do something to contribute to research and help out, with the support of generous friends and colleagues.

How have you found taking part in a virtual challenge? Would you do it again?

I'd definitely do it again, but maybe I'd come up with something easier... then again, a proper challenge will bring in the £££s!

Minna

Katherine Barrott

Katherine's fundraising page

What was your Big 30 challenge?

Skipping for 30 mins a day.

What was the highlight of your challenge?

Gaining far more sponsorship than I thought I would, receiving so many messages of support and requesting progress updates, far more than I ever imagined! It was so inspirational and motivating. On a selfish level, losing weight and feeling fitter was also not a bad thing!

Was there anything you found particularly challenging during the month?

Definitely! It was so much harder than I thought it would be - the thought of getting up and skipping in the pouring rain was very tough at times. However, the sponsorship and general support and encouragement I received were definitely the reason I kept going! My skipping rope snapping in half was also a bit of a challenge and proved how hard I’ve been working!

What were your motivations for taking part in the Big 30?

I am so upset that the Big Walk was cancelled this year as I was so looking forward to helping with the organisation and logistics in the run up. I would’ve loved to have seen first hand the atmosphere I’ve heard so much about. I wanted to support and experience my first fundraising challenge for the University. It has been a brilliant experience, except I never wanting to look a skipping rope in the face again!

How have you found taking part in a virtual challenge? Would you do it again?

I definitely would, as it’s so easy to post updates on Facebook - you don’t need a face to face event to connect to people on social media!

Elisa Chesterton

Elisa's fundraising page

What was your Big 30 challenge?

I detest, hate and do not see the point in running for fun, so I challenged myself to run for 30 minutes every day in June.

What was the highlight of your challenge?

Finding out I could actually run for 30 mins and do a 5K

Was there anything you found particularly challenging during the month?

Walking during the first week after starting to run!

What were your motivations for taking part in the Big 30?

I've always wanted to take part in this fundraising event but due to other commitments I haven't been able to, this fitted in well. Plus I wanted to see if I could actually run for 30 minutes and do a 5K.

How have you found taking part in a virtual challenge?

I've really enjoyed it as I have been able to challenge myself and raise money at the same time.

Would you do it again?

Yes definitely but would choose a different challenge as I still hate running!

Tom Leah - Mortiboys Lab

Tom's fundraising page

What was your Big 30 challenge?

I challenged myself to do 30 hours of meditation in June. Not for everyone! I've been interested in meditation for a couple of years and practice most days, but I'd never tried (or committed) to doing anything as long as one hour per day. I think it's a great habit and I encourage others to try, even just for five minutes a day, the app Headspace is a great way to start. There are lots of benefits, but for me it's mostly about having some time to myself to process any emotions and thoughts from the day.

What was the highlight of your challenge?

Probably those very few sessions where time felt like it passed quickly and I more or less maintained my concentration for the whole session. A typical practice is to focus on the sensations of breathing, and when your mind inevitably wanders off to bring it back. It sounds straightforward but damn is it hard! But, those times when my concentration deepens, leaves me feeling like a weight has been lifted off my shoulders (usually when I never realised there was any "weight" to begin with as my day had swept me along).

Was there anything you found particularly challenging during the month?

For sure, there were some pretty unpleasant sessions. You can imagine that sitting alone with your thoughts and feelings for a full hour each day isn't always the most pleasant thing, if your thoughts and feelings that day aren't so pleasant! But I do think that's the best thing we can do for ourselves when something is troubling us or we feel down, as in to face the emotion head on rather than distract ourselves from it. I always felt better when I came out the other end.

What were your motivations for taking part in the Big 30?

I wanted to help raise funds for Parkinson's Disease research, especially as someone who works on exactly that everyday. There's nothing more motivating than meeting patients and knowing that by doing your best work you could make a difference!

How have you found taking part in a virtual challenge? Would you do it again?

Yeah, it was great! I liked having the opportunity to challenge myself to something, and being held accountable for it. It's too easy to give up when you don't tell anyone about your challenge, so what better than to fundraise and announce your intentions to all your colleagues, friends and family!

Andrew Darby

Andrew's fundraising page

What was your Big 30 challenge?

Visiting 30 trig pillars in the Dark Peak to support research into Parkinson's research at University of Sheffield.

What was the highlight of your challenge?

Completing the six trig pillars around Kinder Scout on foot from Edale, on the hottest day of the year.

Was there anything you found particularly challenging during the month?

Morton's neuroma in my left foot was always going to be a challenge. Thank goodness for pain relieving gel!

What were your motivations for taking part in the Big 30?

My uncle Richard died after living with Parkinson's for several years. He was bright eyed and mentally astute despite being trapped in his chair towards the end. My old boss, Alan, also lives with early onset Parkinson's and has always been amazingly upbeat despite the effect it has on him.

My daughter, Harriet, researched the impact of dance on people with Parkinson's disease for her Medical Sciences dissertation. It was a sobering but fascinating read. Two people in the UK are diagnosed with Parkinson's every hour and there is currently no cure.

Andrew Darby on top of a trig point

Fundraise for Parkinson's research

Funds raised from The Big Walk this year would have contributed significantly to the University’s groundbreaking research into Parkinson’s. We still need your help.

  • Have you been inspired by The Big 30? Perhaps you’ve started running or crafting in lockdown, and you’re looking for a way to put your new skill to the test. Take on your own challenge for Parkinson’s and sign up here today.
  • If you are missing your Big 30 habit, why not keep your JustGiving page open? Throughout July and August you can continue your fantastic efforts and help us to raise essential funds for Parkinson’s disease.
  • If you had signed up for this year’s Big Walk, you can still have your own 2020 Big Walk. Whether you take on one of our original distances (23.6 miles/37 miles with the additional option of 26.2 miles) or create one of your own. Complete your chosen distance over July and August and fundraise for Parkinson’s research by setting up your Just Giving page here.
  • A donation of £30 today could fund the use of a machine to assess the effect of a drug treatment on patient cells. This is essential in developing personalised treatments, to ensure that each patient gets care that is best suited to them as an individual.

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