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Batley mental health exercise and support charity is garden centre charity of the year

As Covid-19 related mental health issues continue to spiral, a Batley based charity that offers free training sessions to help promote physical and mental wellbeing will benefit from the generosity of a Bradford Garden Centre’s customers and staff this year.

Staff at Tong Garden Centre in Bradford have announced that ‘Luke’s Lads’ and sister charity, ‘Butterflies’ will be their Charity of the Year for 2021, following a unanimous staff vote.

Through a series of fund-raising events and collection boxes at the tills, the team at Tong hopes to raise £10,000 for the charity that provides free circuit and support sessions to encourage young people and adults to talk about their feelings.

Luke’s Lads was established in 2018 after local man Luke Naylor committed suicide following a battle with mental health and depression. It was set up by his best friend, Elliot Gorman and his mother, Rachel Walmsley with the support of Luke’s family.

Rachel said: “Our aim for this group is to give people a safe place to express their feelings, get active and help promote physical and mental wellbeing. For someone like myself, who has experienced mental health issues, this is something I am committed to and passionate about. I hope that by sharing my experience, it will give at least one person the confidence, with support, to confront how they are feeling, not bottle things up and know that it’s OK not to be OK.”

The Charity of the Year fundraising is managed by a committee led by the People and Culture team at the Tong Lane site.

Junior People and Culture business partner, Becki Smith said: “Male suicide is the biggest killer of men under 45 in the UK, with many men suffering in silence when they experience feelings of sadness, loneliness or anxiety.​

“Luke’s Lads and Butterflies are brilliant groups for young people and adults to help to restore their confidence and their ability to be part of a social group. The sessions incorporate exercise and the chance to talk about sensitive subjects. The exercise helps them to feel good about themselves whilst the confidential chats enable people to open up. We really want to raise awareness of this charity as well as important funds to ensure they can help local people.”

Plans to raise the funds include a virtual sponsored walk from Land’s End to John o’ Groats and back; a cycle challenge led by Tong’s MD, Mark Farnsworth; a Valentine’s raffle and a charity ball.

Mr Gorman said: “We have been completely overwhelmed with the support we have had since we started and it has truly confirmed to us that what we are doing is not only right, but absolutely essential.

“We are absolutely blown away by the goal of £10k that Tong Garden Centre have set themselves to raise for the Luke’s Lads and Butterflies projects. With this amount, we can potentially offer almost 1500 mental health and suicide interventions for people aged 11 and over. “If you or someone you know could benefit from attending our sessions, please email charitytcd@gmail.com for details.”

Luke’s Lads and Butterflies are based in the same Batley venue in Jo Cox House. Both groups are supported by the charity TCD – Tackling social isolation in the Community through Diverse activities and Mr. Gorman is its Chairperson.

Since Tong Garden Centre was acquired by new owners in 2015, the team and supporters have raised over £40,000. Previous beneficiaries of Tong’s Charity of the Year initiative include Martin House Hospice, The Cellar Trust, Candlelighters and National Literacy Trust. In addition, the team has supported hundreds of smaller charities in the local community.

Tong Garden Centre occupies a 19 acre site in Tong village. It is one of Yorkshire’s biggest independent garden centres with 125,000 square feet of retail space and parking for up to 700 cars.

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