Dorset Community Transport (DCT) provides safe and affordable minibus services for voluntary and community organisations of all shapes and sizes – no matter how challenging the adventure. And at the end of last year, DCT transported two buses full of some brave passengers (and their dogs!) to the start of a tough 12 mile walk in aid of a very special cause…
When Jen Walke-Myles discovered that her seven-month-old baby Betty had been diagnosed with a rare and aggressive brain tumour, her world turned into a “living nightmare”.
Following the diagnosis, Betty had to undergo gruelling treatment including brain surgery, chemotherapy and radiotherapy. “There aren’t words to describe what we have been through as a family, other than horrific,” says Jen.
Although Betty has now been in remission since July 2018, Jen will never forget the care and support that she received from a number of brain tumour charities along the way. So in 2018, she set up 500 miles for Betty: a sponsored walking project to raise money for The Brain Tumour Charity.
“Brain tumours kill more children and adults under the age of 40 than any other cancer,” says Jen. “But we know that less than 3% of national funding on cancer research is spent on brain tumours.”
They will walk 500 miles
Betty’s surname is Walke-Myles, so Jen came up with the idea of encouraging family and friends to sign up to collectively “walk 500 miles” (in reference to the famous Proclaimers song), with each mile gaining more money towards their target of £10,000.
The first walk – which took place in October 2018 and saw 35 people walking from Lulworth to Weymouth – was such a success, that they decided to do it again one year later.
“We smashed our target so quickly, that we decided to keep raising money,” says Jen. So in October 2019, the walkers headed out on a challenging 12 mile journey from Abbotsbury to the Isle of Portland. So far, the walks have collectively raised more than £17,000.
For both walks, Jen (pictured with her family on the right) wanted to find an affordable way for people to travel to the starting point together. “People were volunteering their time to come on the walks, so it didn’t seem fair to charge them very much for travel.”
There were no suitable public transport options available, so Jen got in touch with DCT, which she was familiar with thanks to her job as an Executive Producer at Activate Performing Arts. Activate is a charity which makes the arts more accessible for people across Dorset, Bournemouth and Poole, and it regularly hires DCT’s minibus services to transport young people – many of whom are disabled – to dance and theatre workshops.
DCT was able to provide her with a cost-effective solution for both walks. “It was very helpful that we didn’t have to pay DCT until after the walk, too. That way, we could collect the money during the trip. When you’re making arrangements with volunteers, this type of flexibility makes everything much easier.”
Jen adds that thanks to a helpful DCT team, organising the bus travel felt hassle-free. “The drivers were so friendly and flexible, they even kindly let us take a few dogs with us on the bus!”
Jen believes that community transport is vital for people living across Dorset, especially in the Isle of Portland where she lives, which is a small island connected to the mainland by a barrier beach. “We’re not on a train line and only one bus company comes down to us. Our island is isolated, so DCT’s buses are an important way for communities to stay connected.”
And will the walk be happening again next year? Jen isn’t sure, but she knows that there are a few more charities she would like to raise money for in the future. “Julia’s House children’s hospice – which provides practical and emotional support for parents whose children are facing life-threatening illnesses – is next on our list to fundraise for. They were so supportive, and without them, looking after Betty would have been much more challenging.”
If you are looking for affordable transport to support your volunteer or community group’s activities, contact Dorset Community Transport on 01258 287980.