Wednesday, 15 May 2019

Volunteers make a huge difference

IT'S not just donations, sponsorship money and fundraising initiatives that can make a big difference to charities - people giving up their precious free time to volunteer are just as important.

We here at Carlisle Mencap are no different. We really do NEED volunteers to help us provide the increasing demand for support and services that more than 500 adults and children with learning disabilities and their families across Cumbria rely on us for.

For instance Number 1: One of the groups we run for young adults is the Orchid Club. It takes place at The Sands Centre, Carlisle's main sports and leisure venue, most Wednesday nights between 7.15pm and 8.30pm. Here, our service users can play sports like bowls and badminton, games like a giant Connect 4, and generally socialise and make friends. But we are running out of volunteers to help this popular group continue on a regular basis. It's just a couple of hours one night a week.

For instance Number 2: Drivers. We run clubs on Saturdays, Sundays and Mondays, and these often involve day trips and visits to places like museums, working farms, leisure centres. Our staff do a fantastic job driving our service users and team leaders around but they often have to carry out these duties in their spare time. So we are always on the lookout for people who have wheels - and time - to spare.

For instance Number 3: Spreading the word. Events, especially in the summer, are vital to a charity like ours. Yes, it is always a huge bonus if we manage to raise money from them as well, but it is just as important that we spread the word to people at large about the vital work we do and the services we offer. So spending a few hours on one of our stands at, say, the Dalston Show this coming August, handing out leaflets and running a tombola, is a big, big help. Coming up in June we have a bumper weekend of events to mark the climax of our 50th anniversary celebration and to mark Learning Disabilities Week. More on this is my next blog but volunteers are needed to help make these events run smoothly - and they're a lot of fun too!

So, national Volunteers' Week is around the corner, June 1 to June 7 to be precise. A series of events up and down the country will highlight the value of volunteers to charities and the Third Sector.

Did you know? The estimated annual value of volunteers helping UK charities is £22.6bn

It seems obvious but the fact is the more volunteers that charities like Carlisle Mencap get coming forward, the more activities and trips they can organise for service users of all ages, and the more fundraising events they can stage to help pay for these trips, which bring so much enjoyment to our members.  

Did you know? ‘Wanting to do good’ is the most important reason to volunteer. In 2017/18, 46% of people said that they volunteer to improve things and help others

And let's face it - volunteering and helping others 'less fortunate than others' (I hate that phrase but it will do here in this context!) does bring about a real sense of well-being. You feel GOOD about yourself. And, especially with some of our fundraising events and trips, you have a great time into the bargain and make new friends and - who knows? - future partners? 

Did you know? In 2017/18, 20.1 million (38%) people in the UK volunteered formally at least once a year and 11.8 million (22%) of people did so at least once a month 

We are lucky in Carlisle that, thanks to Carlisle Vineyard Church and Carlisle Ambassadors, we have the fabulous Give A Day To The City initiative.  Give A Day To The City week is the first week in July so again, I will be plugging this more in my blog as the time approaches, but safe to say that this initiative, in which groups of workplace colleagues give up a day to go and help a community project like landscaping a garden or building a play area, is a fantastic example of the good volunteering can do to the wider community.

So what are you waiting for? If you YOU would like to volunteer and help Carlisle Mencap, then get in touch. To volunteer at fundraising events, contact me, PHIL TAYLOR, on 07341 865382 or email and for other volunteering opportunities call 01228 674393 or email 

And remember - volunteering opportunities with us will fit in with whatever time you can spare.

#giveadaytothecity #VolunteersWeek

Wednesday, 1 May 2019

Here's £30 - make it grow!

WE would like to give you £30. Yes, Carlisle Mencap is willing to hand over thirty smackers to you and your colleagues.

Well of course there's a catch. But it is a nice one. And it is called the £30 Accumulator Challenge and what it basically means is we give you £30 to start off with - and you come back to us with a big, fat healthy profit. We hope!

Carlisle Mencap is urging teams of chums from work, organisations, gyms, pubs, clubs whatever, to get together and help raise vital funds for the 500 adults and children with learning disabilities that our charity provides across Cumbria.

But you are going to have a lot of fun in the process and test your entrepreneurial skills as we challenge you to turn that £30 into as big a figure as possible by DECEMBER 31 2019!

In my last blog we looked at the weird and wonderful ways and challenges that people around the world come up with to raise funds - worm charming, remember? - for good causes, so now's YOUR chance to do just that!

Your team can be as creative as it likes, so long as the fundraising idea is morally sound and legal. If it fits that criteria, then anything goes.

And of course, whatever schemes you come up with to help boost your £30 to - well, £50, £100, £300, £500, who knows? - we will give you advice and support. Your efforts (and therefore your company/organisation) will be given lots of publicity across our website and social media sites, as well as coverage in the local media.

And the winning team which makes the most money will win fabulous prizes!

So what are you waiting for? Get in touch with me NOW at or call 01228 674393 to register your team and how you can pick up your starting sum of £30.

Once we have several teams, I also plan to host a fun quiz night where you and your colleagues take part against the other fundraising teams and the winner receives a sum of dosh to add to their £30 challenge total.

Speaking of quizzes...Carlisle Mencap has teamed up with the Cumbrian Cheesecake Company to host a series of quiz nights at the company's cafe in Infirmary Road, Carlisle.
The first one is coming up soon, on Friday May 10, starting at 7.30pm. For teams of three, four or five, it costs £2 per person. There will also be a raffle. For more details see poster at the end of this blog but you must reserve a table in advance by calling the cafe on 01228 5598992. 

Finally, a big thank-you to everyone who turned up to Carlisle Mencap's Open Day & Business Breakfast at the Grace Little Centre in north Carlisle on Wednesday, May 1. Special mention too to our guest speakers, Andy Beeforth OBE, chief executive of Cumbria Community Foundation, and Colin Glover, leader of Carlisle City Council. John Watt & Co kindly provided the excellent coffee and teas and members of the Carlisle Mencap team did a grand job serving up bacon butties and veggie options!

#Lakescheesecake #carlislecitycouncil #cartmellshepherd #jelf #nxtrecruitment #kingmoorparkproperties #cumbriacommunityfoundation

Thursday, 18 April 2019

Worm charming anyone?

NOW we here at Carlisle Mencap are always grateful to people who raise money for us by doing sponsored walks, abseiling down Carlisle Civic Centre, sponsored skydives, the London Marathon etc. But have you ever thought about a sponsored worm charm, auction of kisses, or wearing the same dress for a year?

As long as it is in the best possible taste, we don't mind how you go about raising funds for the vital work that our charity does. And by the way, those bizarre ideas in the opening paragraph have actually taken place.

Before we have a bit of Easter holiday fun by looking back at some of the most crazy fundraising stunts ever to take place for a good cause, I just want to plug the fact that we still have FOUR out of six places available for the Great North Run in September.

So fancy taking part in the world's greatest half marathon? Then we would love to hear from you! Taking place on Sunday, September 8, in Newcastle upon Tyne, the Great North Run is a spectacular event - and Carlisle Mencap has been lucky enough to bag six places. Four of these are still up for grabs, so if you fancy pitting your running skills against thousands of others including some of the world's top runners, then we'd love to hear from you.

We pay your £80 entry fee/package but runners most raise a minimum of £300 in sponsorship. So why not give it a go? Get in touch with me, Phil Taylor, on 01228 674393 or email me at

Anyway, back to the worm charming...actually, I'll come to that later. Firstly, same dress for a year. That was started back in 2009 by Sheena Mathekin who raised hundreds of thousands of pounds by wearing the same dress for a year. The money went to the Akanksha Foundation that provides education facilities in rural India. She then started the Uniform Project which involves women wearing the same item of clothing for 365 days. 

Charlize Theron hit the headlines when she 'raffled' a 20-second kiss and promptly raised $140,000 for the OneXOne charity that helps improve the lives of children around the globe.

As this is a family-friendly blog, we will mention but will quickly pass on from naked cycling and lap dancing for the needy - again, these HAVE been done in the name of a good cause! - as we finally come to worm charming.

According to the Gone For Good 10 Crazy Things People Do For Charity web page, in a sponsored worm charming event, a piece of land is divided into equal-sized plots or squares. The plots are sold to contestants who are then challenged to 'charm' as many worms as possible to the surface in 30 minutes.

Singing, jumping and 'banging on a fork' (!) are just some of the ways that people have tried to charm the worms - which are extremely sensitive to sound (well wouldn't we all be with that commotion carrying on just centimetres above our heads!) and rise to the surface when stimulated by noise and movement.

The contestant who charms the most worms wins, and amazingly, the record stands at 567 worms! And did you know that the village of Willaston in Cheshire hosts the yearly World Worm Charming Championships which attracts competitors from all over the planet?  Surprised Sky hasn't bought the rights!  I wonder what the collective noun is for a group of worm charmers? A 'Wriggle', perhaps, or maybe a 'Squirm of Worm Charmers' - I like that one...

So there we have it. Feeling inspired now are we? If you've any weird and wacky ways or ideas of raising money for Carlisle Mencap, please do let me know. Or if you want to raise cash in more conventional ways - we'd still love to hear from you!

Give it some thought and while you do have a fabulous Easter!

Tuesday, 9 April 2019

Make it your business

MENCAPTIVATE is back in business after a short break - and that's appropriate because 'business' is the theme of this blog. And how we can work together!

Carlisle Mencap is based on the Kingmoor Park North Industrial Estate and the estate's owners, Kingmoor Park Properties, are good supporters of our charity. For instance, this June they are helping to sponsor our main event - the Sponsored Bungee Jumps and Summer Fun Day at Creighton Rugby Club in Sycamore Lane, Carlisle, on Sunday June 16 (this promises to be a fabulous fundraising day - and I'm sorry, I'll be banging on about it quite a lot between now and June 16 - that and the Hendrix tribute gig the night before!) which marks the climax of our 50th anniversary celebrations.

Like every charity, Carlisle Mencap relies on the goodwill of donations from individuals, organisations and companies. Like every charity, we could always do with more. 

But it shouldn't just be one-way traffic - and this is one of the reasons why we have decided to hold an Open Day and Business Breakfast at our Grace Little Centre for Children on Wednesday, May 1.

And we're thrilled that on the day we will have two well-known local figures as guest speakers -  Andy Beeforth, chief executive of Cumbria Community Foundation, and Colin Glover, the leader of Carlisle City Council. They will give talks along with our own CEO, Sheila Gregory.

Although targeted at companies and organisations in the Kingmoor/Kingstown area of Carlisle, all companies and organisations in Cumbria are invited to send a representative.

Let's hope they do, because we feel that this would be a great opportunity to discuss ways of how businesses and charities can work together for the benefit of the wider community and how philanthropic ideas and gestures can be a real boon to firms and to good causes. 

It is important that the corporate sector and the Third Sector can work together to boost the local economy, even in the current climate of austerity and Brexit uncertainty. In fact, perhaps because of that it makes it even more relevant. And the kudos and good publicity that companies get from helping charities and the community in general will always raise a firm's profile and, potentially, boost their sales.

The open day is from 8.30am to 10.30am and as well as our guest speakers there will also be a chance for guests to see first-hand the fantastic facilities at the charity’s Grace Little Centre for children.

The event is free and there will be free teas and coffees courtesy of John Watt & Co, and free bacon rolls and vegetarian options.

If you would like to attend the open day, please call me, Phil Taylor,  on 01228 674393 or email no later than Wednesday, April 24.

To pinch the slogan of a well-known supermarket chain, "every little helps" when it comes to companies and groups helping charities like ourselves.

Certain companies are fantastic at getting in touch with us each year and sending us vouchers, gift cards, money-off offers etc for us to use as raffle/tombola prizes at our events or events that we are invited to take part in with a stand. Even a bottle of wine or a box of chocolates are gratefully received here in the office at Carlisle Mencap - and by that I mean as prizes, NOT for the staff to scoff and guzzle!

For instance, last year Booths Supermarket in Penrith very kindly donated a luxury hamper to be raffled off at our Christmas Fair, while McVitie's in Carlisle gave us a big selection of their biscuit products which was eagerly snapped up at a raffle during one of our discos.

So if, dear reader, you work for a company that hasn't given much thought to helping charities, through sponsorship or donations, and would like to do so - get them to send someone to our business breakfast on May 1. And, or as well as, get them to give me a call (see above for contact details) on how they can get involved in helping and supporting Carlisle Mencap's vital work.

#linkedin #philanthropy #booths #mcvitie's

Friday, 22 February 2019

Run, jump, rock - just do it!

THE weekend of June 15-16 could be a very memorable one for Carlisle Mencap - but we need people of all ages to get involved!

And we are also on the lookout for athletic types who'd like to raise money for us by taking part in the Great North Run - the world's most popular half marathon - which takes place on in September in Newcastle upon Tyne.

But first things first - how do you fancy an adrenaline-rush? Well, if you've got a head for heights we'd love to hear from you because we need people to take part in our sponsored bungee jump.

In conjunction with adventure company Extreme Sensations of Penrith, plans are now well under way for the bungee event which will be part of our Summer Fun day on Sunday, June 16 at Creighton Rugby Club in Sycamore Avenue, Penrith.

It is all part of the grand finale to the charity’s 50th anniversary celebrations. The bungee jump is open to anyone aged 14 and over (people aged 16 and under must have a parent/guardian present and over 50s require a doctor’s certificate) who is in good health. It  takes place from a 145ft crane. Go on - you know you want to try it!

Also on that day at Creighton there will be stands, gift stalls, children’s entertainment, refreshments and a bar.

As a warm-up to Sunday’s event, a fundraising rock concert for Carlisle Mencap will take place at The Brickyard in Fisher Street, Carlisle, on the Saturday evening, June 15, featuring Are You Experienced? – Europe’s top Jimi Hendrix tribute band.

So all in all this is going to a weekend of thrilling experiences, if you'll pardon the pun. So spread the word. Tell your family, friends, work colleagues, the bloke sat next to you in the bus - and let them know about what we're planning and get them to join in. 

Because at the end of the day, the more people take part by bungee jumping, or coming to the rock gig, or paying to see the bungee jumps, enjoying the fun day, by having a stall, by getting their company or organisation to help with sponsorship, and just by generally getting involved - the more vital funds we raise to help more than 500 adults and children with learning disabilities and their families. 

We also have FIVE places up for grabs for people wanting to raise money for Carlisle Mencap through the Great North Run. 

The Great North Run takes place on Sunday, September 8 in Newcastle upon Tyne and is regarded as the world's greatest half marathon. Carlisle Mencap has been allocated six places - one already taken - so if you would like to take part we'd love to hear from you. We pay your £80 entry fee/package but runners must raise a minimum of £300 in sponsorship.

So, to find out more about the Great North Run, bungee jump, the jump terms and conditions, and also how to take part - and for any queries about Carlisle Mencap and how to get involved in helping us, contact Phil at Carlisle Mencap on 01228 674393 or email


Tuesday, 29 January 2019

Taking centre stage

ARE you doing anything this Friday night? Exactly! You are probably not as it is hardly the party night out season is it? But why not drag yourselves away from the Coronation Street double bill on the telly and get yourselves along to Carlisle Mencap's Got Talent.

Taking place at the Harraby Catholic Club (Edgehill Road, Carlisle, CA1 3PQ, for those who want to key in the SatNav!) on Friday February 1 from 6pm to 10pm, this is the first fundraising social event of 2019 for Carlisle Mencap and it is one where the service users are very much to the fore!

At the time of going to press, we had eight acts confirmed - so take a bow the following: LEON (dancer); NAOMI & MATTHEW (singing duo); PAUL (memory act); GEORGIA (singer); CLARE (singer); CAROLINE (singer); JORDAN (dancer/juggler) and AMBER & MARK (singing duo).

So competition is going to be fierce and our CEO Sheila, as head of judging, is going to have a few tough decisions to make on the night.

The night will be compered by Graham and our favourite DJ Damien will also be in attendance to keep the audience amused between the acts. 

The catholic club staff - who have once again kindly let us have the large entertainment room for free - will be manning the bar.

Admission - on the night only - is £5 for adults, £2.50 for under-16s and it's free for support workers. The admission price includes a buffet.

So come along and enjoy a fun night out. The service users taking part deserve immense credit for putting themselves forward to appear on stage and they'll really appreciate the support you can give them. 

Just a quick reminder that on Thursday, January 31 the draw for the Carlisle Mencap Festive Raffle takes place. The results will be available on our website at and also on our Twitter and Facebook sites.

Tuesday, 22 January 2019

Have you a head for heights?

HERE at Carlisle Mencap we're really hoping that our fundraising takes off this year - literally.

In fact, let's hope the sky's the limit and and that we'll all be jumping for joy as the sponsorship money starts to wing its way into our head office and that our fundraisers will be full of bounce and enthusiasm. And that, I promise you, is the end of the pun fest!

We hope lots of people will do the London Marathons, the Total Warriors and the sponsored walks and cycles for us in 2019 as they have done in the past. But we have two special challenges lined up for those people with a head for heights.

The first challenge to have a definite date and venue fixed up is the Sponsored Bungee Jump, all set to take place on Sunday June 16 at Creighton Rugby Club, Carlisle.

So what does it involve? Well, the jumps - from a crane - vary from a height of 40 to 45 metres (that's 131ft to 147ft in old money) and each jump lasts about four minutes. Extreme Sensations, who operate the whole caboodle, have been organising these for the past 27 years with a 100 per cent safety record.

And who can do it? You must be at least 14, and 14, 15 and 16 year-olds must have a parent/guardian with them on the day. Those aged 65 and over must have a doctor's certificate but people as old as 89 have done a jump! There are no height or weight restrictions but pregnant women, people with breathing problems - ie asthmatics - people with back problems and those who smell strongly of drink - so lay off the brandies for Dutch courage! - will NOT be allowed to jump.

Feel free to do it in fancy dress, but be check carefully and please do not carry anything in your pockets. We don't an innocent bystander being clonked on the head by a free-falling mobile phone!

The bungee jumps will be the centre point of a day of family entertainment and fun at the rugby club so it promises to be a fantastic day out. And the more people who come forward to do a bungee jump, sponsored by family, friends and work colleagues, and setting up a JustGiving page as well if they like, the better it will be for Carlisle Mencap's coffers!

Don't fancy a bungee jump? Then how does a skydive grab you? And you will be grabbed, because the dives will be tandem ones as you team up with an experienced parachutist.

We haven't decided on a date yet for this challenge but it will take place from Flookburgh Airfield in the south of Cumbria under the expert instructions of Skydive Northwest. They do jumps from February to early November so we have quite a window of opportunity, although jumps only take place at weekends.

We hope to get at least 10 people - Carlisle Mencap members and the public - taking a leap of faith. The jumps are from 15,000ft and cost £230 per person. But if 10 or more do the tandem dives together on the same day, then Skydive Northwest knock £10 per person off the cost.

Those who do the jumps will be following in the footsteps (er, should that be slipstream?) of Imogen Dodd who, in 2016 when aged 16, did a tandem skydive for Carlisle Mencap - as a birthday treat! 

And I am using daredevil Imogen - who also did a sponsored abseil down the city's Civic Centre for Carlisle Mencap in 2014 - as my inspiration. 

Because of family illness, I won't be able to do my planned five-day trek along the Cumbrian Way from our Hart Street centre in Ulverston to our Grace Little Centre facility in north Carlisle in May as I'd planned.

So instead, I plan to be one of those jumping out thousands of feet above the beautiful Cumbria landscape - and I'm hoping some of my Carlisle Mencap colleagues will join me. 
Because I'm not afraid of falling from a great height - and that is despite the fact back in the mid-1980s I had the dubious distinction of being in a hot air balloon crash - I kid you not!

During my days as a sports reporter on the Oxford Mail I was invited to do a balloon flight. Taking off one Saturday afternoon from the centre of the Oxford Cheetahs speedway stadium, all went very well alongside experienced aeronaut (that's a balloon pilot, don't you know!) Roland until, after we'd just flown over a large wood at a height of about 400ft, he turned to me and said quietly: "Phil, do you smoke?".

At that point in my life I did. "Yes," I replied, "why? would you like a cigarette?" He replied: "Er no - I just wondered if you had a lighter so I could reignite the pilot light."
I cautiously looked up, and saw the great balloon envelope starting to fold in on itself. The pilot light had indeed gone out, due to a surge of air rising from the edge of the wood, and there was no flame coming from the huge bunsen burner type-thingy in the middle of our basket. And we were starting to lose height - rapidly.

Anyway, as we hurtled towards a railway line and a small reservoir alongside the track, we started to throw out used gas canisters and other equipment. About 100ft from terra firma, Roland managed to get the pilot light going again. We gained just enough height to clear the railway line and reservoir before making a very bumpy crash landing in a nearby cow field. We were dragged along for about 400 yards as Jerseys and Friesians scattered to all four corners of the said field, before we finally came to rest on our side in a ditch. 

"You okay?" asked Roland, as he crawled out from the overturned basket. "Never better," I replied, as I wiped a cowpat from my chest and lifted a gas canister off my legs. But remarkably, neither of us was hurt, bar a few scratches. And I have to say I would definitely do a balloon flight again - but perhaps with a slightly less bumpy and smelly landing next time. Because it was a great experience.

And I hope anyone reading this blog, who also fancies having a great experience while doing something for a very worthwhile cause, will seriously consider coming forward to do a sponsored bungee jump or a tandem skydive. Or both!

If you do, contact me at Carlisle Mencap on 01228 674393 or 07341 865382 or by email at 

For more details about Extreme Sensations' bungee jumps and Skydive Northwest parachute jumps, follow the links below:

Volunteers make a huge difference

IT'S not just donations, sponsorship money and fundraising initiatives that can make a big difference to charities - people giving up...