ONE of the country’s most successful sportsmen has backed Sunderland AFC’s official charity in its efforts to help tackle the city’s health problems.
Since its creation in 2001, Foundation of Light has made is priorities educating young people and their families, helping people into work and improving health and well-being.
Steve Cram, one of the UK’s best-ever middle distance runners, is a Trustee of the Foundation and has a special interest in the work the charity does in getting people fitter and helping people to focus more on living healthier lifestyles.
“In a way, well-being is our biggest challenge. With education, it’s easier to get funding and measure outcomes. Health and well-being is so important, but nobody seems to own it – is it the NHS, is it Sport England or is voluntary organisations like the Foundation?” Steve asked.
“There doesn’t always appear to be a national cohesive strategy, so I think it’s vital that bodies like the Foundation provide good, strong outcomes and continue to tackle health issues at a very local level.
“It’s not our job to rectify the whole problem, nor could we, but we can deliver good, workable interventions that can make a big difference to local families.
There is a phenomenal amount of people whose lives have been improved by the work of the Foundation. But it’s not always about the numbers, sometimes it’s the things you can’t measure.
“The dad who we’ve taught to read is a number on a page somewhere, but we’ve changed his life, we’ve improved his life.
“When I hear these personal, individual stories, that’s when I feel genuinely proud. It’s important that we as Trustees hear these individual stories, but it’s also important that a wider audience hears them too, so the work of the foundation is really appreciated.
“It’s part of the reason the Foundation has launched its stand alone website as many of these inspiring stories and information on health and well-being can be found on the new website www.foundationoflight.co.uk.”
The ‘Jarrow Arrow’ was sure the foundation’s unique relationship with SAFC can help provide the inspiration needed to encourage people to live healthier lives: “The players can be role models who can create that initial spark of interest; they can get the attention of young people.
“It’s then our role to provide the spaces, facilities and coaches to encourage people in Sunderland to live healthier lifestyles.”
Steve believes that in the future, Foundation of Light could deliver services on behalf of the NHS or extend work done on behalf of Sport England.
And he is sure one way to improve the fitness and health of communities is through families: “All you need is one family member in a household to take up running or some form of regular exercise and mums, dads, brothers, sisters, daughters or sons can follow.
“We’re not looking to create Olympic champions, we just need more people to think more about exercise and eating the right things. Running and other sports can also do wonders for your self-confidence and self-esteem.
“It could be that you’re not achieving in the classroom, but you could achieve on the running track or in the gym – and it doesn’t cost a fortune. Running round the streets with a pair of trainers on doesn’t cost much at all.”
Steve, who set world records at various middle distances as well as winning the 1500m Gold at the 1983 World Championships and the 1500m silver medal at the 1984 Olympic Games, is now the BBC’s Chief Athletics Commentator and Chancellor at the University of Sunderland.
He is proud of the work Foundation of Light continues to do in local communities and excited at the prospect of expanding that work once the £15m Beacon of Light opens. The Foundation’s new building will be a vibrant and exciting education and sports facility built on land next to the Stadium of Light and Sunderland Aquatic Centre.
Steve adds: “We’ve been talking about the Beacon at Foundation board meetings for a long time, so it’s great to see it starting to coming to life.”