Bridging the charity funding gap

Support from a North East construction company is bridging the funding gap for a local children’s charity forced to postpone a much-loved seaside event for a second summer.

Children North East’s annual Sandcastle Challenge has captured the interest of schools and businesses across the region for 27 years.

The challenge – hosted by Children North East – which is celebrating its 130th anniversary – was inspired by founders John H. Watson, Cashier to Newcastle Corporation, and John T. Lunn, a Shipowner’s Manager, who in 1891 organised a seaside trip for children living in Newcastle slums.

With last year’s challenge held remotely, sponsor – Vistry Partnerships North East – was keen that 2021’s event would go ahead, albeit in a different format.

Sean Egan, Managing Director, said: “The pandemic has had a profound effect on children and young people, many of which have had their school and home routines turned upside down. Having supported the Sandcastle Challenge for the last eight years, we were keen to work with Children North East to find a way to deliver the event that would not only meet covid restrictions but give local schools a challenge and positive focus.

“Through the Building Bridges competition, we are inviting local schools to design and construct a bridge from recyclable products. Picking a winner will be tough, but as a construction company we will be considering its design, durability, strength, sustainability and longevity.”

Seven schools are taking part, including Beaconhill Primary, Cramlington, Broadway Junior School Sunderland, Cotherstone Primary School, Barnard Castle, St. Joseph’s RC Primary School, Jarrow and from South Shields, Marine Park Primary School, Westoe Crown Primary School and St. Gregory’s RC VA Primary School.

A judging panel from the Sandcastle Challenge Committee – all of which have construction and design backgrounds – have volunteered to pick the top three bridges, with a £200 prize for the three schools behind the designs.

Nicola Wood, acting deputy headteacher at Broadway Junior School, said: “This has been a fun and exciting project for the children and the school. It has challenged them to think about a number of topics, including the iconic bridges we have in the North East of England and around the world, how bridges are constructed, what materials to use, the environmental impact and how to create something that is sustainable but also aesthetically pleasing.”

Later in the year the schools’ designs will be displayed at The Bridge Gallery Tynemouth Station.

Carol Taylor, Senior Fundraiser at Children North East added: “It was so important to recognise the event this year in some way and to keep the memory alive within our region’s schools. Sadly, we could not spend time at the beach, but our alternative Sandcastle Challenge will certainly be remembered. Through COVID and all the obstacles in our way we are so happy we have been able to celebrate this anniversary year and we thank the schools for taking part as we are aware it has not been an easy time for many.”