Talking charity with Colin Jackson
Colin Jackson is a busy man. The former Welsh sprint and hurdling legend (he won Olympic silver, became world champion three times, went undefeated at the European Championships for 12 years and was Commonwealth champion twice) has taken a break from presenting and commentating to create a brand new fundraising event, Sanlam’s Go Dad Run. The 5k event for men takes place on Father’s Day weekend (Saturday 14th and Sunday 15th June) in three UK locations, to raise vital funds for Prostate Cancer UK. We caught up with Colin to chat about the upcoming event.
Where did the inspiration for Go Dad Run come from?
A few years ago two of my uncles developed prostate cancer, and although one responded to treatment and is now fit and well again, the other was less fortunate and sadly passed away. That prompted me to find out more information about the illness and I was shocked to discover that while one in eight men in the UK will develop prostate cancer, that actually rises to one in four black men from a African Caribbean background.
I’ve long been inspired by the amazing success of Cancer Research UK’s Race For Life and decided to create an event specifically for men that would raise funds for Prostate Cancer UK and also, more importantly, help create additional awareness of the condition.
How are you using social media to raise awareness and understanding of Go Dad Run?
Social media is crucial for all events such as ours. We’re working closely with our sponsors and also bitient, who are managing our Facebook and Twitter sites, so that we generate content and interest.
The big yellow Y-fronts that we’re using as our logo are perfect for encouraging people to take silly photos of themselves, and we’re encouraging everyone who signs up to post pictures of themselves, as well as asking some of our many supporters from the worlds of sport and entertainment to do the same.
Go Dad Run is now in its second year – what have you learned from last year’s launch event and is there anything you’re doing differently?
The most important thing was that the response to the basic idea behind Go Dad Run was strong and enthusiastic, and that encouraged us to expand it this year. And it reinforced what we already knew, that organising a charity event is a bit like sport as it’s essential to have the right team in place to support the project.
We also appreciated the enormous generosity of those who work so hard or donated their time to help get people to sign up and then look after them on the day.
This year we’ve scaled the whole project up and brought in four excellent sponsors, but we’re still very aware that in such a competitive field we have to first get people to know about Sanlam’s Go Dad Run, ask them to sign up and then give them a great experience on Father’s Day weekend.
How do you see Go Dad Run expanding in the future?
We’d love it to become the 5K for men and boys to participate in on Father’s Day every year and for the whole event to become a fun and inclusive family tradition. And it’s important to make it very inclusive, which is why we’re encouraging people to walk or jog round the course and not think that it’s just a race.
For me, the most important thing is that we get men of all ages to come together for one day, think about their health and have a great family experience as well as raising funds for such an important charity.
What do you think is the best way for a charity to get celebrity support on a campaign?
Social media has changed everything as well-known personalities can now very easily post photos or messages, but it’s important for people to understand and believe in the cause that they’re being asked to support.
There are a very large number of charities that are all doing great work and so people in the public eye get an increasing number of requests for help. Some celebrities will be friends of the organisers, others will have direct personal experience or knowledge of the area that the charity represents, and many are approached via sponsors, clubs or agents, but it’s always good to be very clear about what you’re asking them to do.
Be aware that they may already have commitments. Try and engage people for a specific purpose and always remember to thank people for giving their time and name to your project!
You’re heavily involved in charity work with various organisations. Did you always plan to use your profile to benefit charities?
I’m not sure that it’s something that people necessarily plan, but as soon as you have any kind of profile the requests start coming in, and there are so many amazing and worthwhile causes that it’s usually a privilege to be involved.
The toughest part is having to prioritise as it’s not always possible to help with all of them, but I try to work with as many as I can, especially if it’s a subject, such as prostate cancer, that I can relate to.
What charity events have been particularly memorable and inspired you to get involved?
Our pilot event for Go Dad Run in Llangefni, Wales last year was very special, as that was the first charity event I’d ever actually created and it was inspired by family experience. But it’s been very memorable to work recently with the new global charity Wings For Life and raise funds for spinal cord injury research.
And when I went to Africa with Sport Relief and met some of the people whose lives have been changed by the money that we all raised, it was a very powerful reminder that sometimes the small things that we’re able to use our profiles to do can make a really positive difference to the lives of others.
If you could ask your supporters to do one thing to improve the world, what would it be?
That’s a very difficult question as I’d obviously love all the men to sign up for the Sanlam Go Dad Run and all the women to encourage the men to do so!
But the main thing would be to ask that everyone respects each other for their individuality and personality and that we celebrate our diverse range of strengths and goodness.
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