Business community rises to charity sports challenge

lympic Sports Day at the Iffley Road Sports Ground. High Sheriff, Tony Stratton, centre, with Olympic rower Greg Searle, left, and rugby and television star Matt Dawson, right

Tracey Mallett welly-wanging for the CPM UK Ltd team

First published in News Witney Gazette: Photograph of the Author by , Reporter covering Didcot and Wallingford. Call me on 01865 425425

BUSINESSMEN and women swapped their suits for sports gear to take part in a fundraising challenge in Oxford.

More than 100 staff from 22 firms across Oxfordshire were invited to take part in the sporting challenge by Oxfordshire High Sheriff Tony Stratton.

They were put through their paces on Thursday, at the world-famous Iffley Road running track, where Sir Roger Bannister was the first man to run a mile in less than four minutes on May 6, 1954.

World Cup-winning England rugby player Matt Dawson and Olympic gold medal rower Greg Searle joined staff from the businesses for the challenge.

Employees from firms including Blackwell’s, Bicester Village and Sainsbury’s took part in contests at the track, such as archery, shot putt and the 1,500 metres.

High Sheriff of Oxfordshire Tony Stratton is aiming to raise a total of about £120,000 for Music for Autism, Access Sport and the Oxfordshire Community Foundation, which supports community groups working with disadvantaged people.

Among those who took part were staff from Thame-based retails sales business CPM UK Ltd.

Phil Roberts, commercial director, said: “Six staff took part and they had a brilliant day.

“We were delighted to join in the activities to raise funds.”

Tracey Mallett, from Aylesbury, a training executive for the firm, threw a boot 18 metres in the welly-throwing contest.

She added: “It was great fun. I don’t know if I was among the leaders because the results aren’t in yet.”

Mr Stratton said: “The High Sheriff is a Royal appointment and I took over in April.

“I came up with the idea of staging a sporting challenge, with businesses raising a chunk of money for good causes.

“About five people from each firm took part in a number of different events, including the 1,500 metres, archery, long jump, shot putt, rowing, basketball and throwing wellies.

“Once the money has been raised it will be managed by the Oxfordshire Community Foundation.”

Rugby player Mr Dawson, 41, said: “When you have Tony Stratton in charge of something like this you can see his passion for sport coming through. I have known him for about 10 years and he was chairman on my testimonial committee, so I was delighted to come along to this event.

“It’s great to see these business types sprinting around the track to raise such a lot of money for good causes.”

Olympic gold medal rower Greg Searle added: “I was very impressed with the amount of effort these supporters were putting in on the rowing machines and was happy to show them the basics.”

Jayne Woodley, chief executive of the Oxfordshire Community Foundation, said £35,000 would go to Music for Autism, £50,000 to Access Sport, and a further £35,000 would go to causes nominated by the foundation.

She added: “Mr Stratton has inspired the firms to take part and donate funding and we are organising the collection of the donations.”

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