The History of Exercising for Mobility

The Story of Exercising for Mobility, Janet McCulley The Founder

Exercising For Mobility is a registered charity that offers free social exercise classes to adults of any age who have a disability, a long-term health condition, mobility and balance problems, or any other condition where exercise can help. For example, depression, dementia, learning difficulties or obesity. It also provides an opportunity for members to meet other people, it provides regular coffee mornings, trips, events and information.

My husband, Mac, and I came to live in Bude nine years ago, we are both retired Head Teachers. A few years earlier, while living in Nottingham, I had been diagnosed with Parkinson’s. I was sent to a large out patients’ clinic three times a week where physiotherapists set up an intensive exercise programme for me. They assessed me and amended my exercise programme as needed. Then we came to live in remote Bude, which is further away from a major hospital than anywhere else in Britain.

Eight years ago, I had a vision……..

A lot of people have worked very hard and made the vision a reality and we are very grateful to all who have supported us. We know this provision is needed and we are proud of our achievement. In the last two years we have won five Volunteer Cornwall awards in recognition of the work we do. Also, we have been our local Sainsbury’s Charity of the Year twice. Local doctors, physiotherapists and other health workers regularly recommend our classes to their patients. Almost every week we have new members joining. It is gratifying that the community has so much confidence in our organisation.

How I came up with the idea

There were no exercise sessions for the likes of me. As Bude is so remote most of its after-care service is mainly done by voluntary groups. I could see the need for exercise classes, but had to decide how to go about setting them up. In October 2009 we held a public meeting to establish a need. Eighteen people turned up and from that small number we acquired our first four volunteers and six members with health problems.

The Committee, Funding and The First Steps

I applied for an Awards for All grant of £5000 from the Big Lottery Fund and it was very exciting when a few weeks later we heard that we had got it. The grant was due to start in January 2010. We had already been given some small donations by well-wishers and the Primary Care Trust had offered to fund an exercise instructor for one session a week for ten weeks. This gave us time to find our own instructor, enrol more members, volunteers and purchase some small equipment.

We set up a committee, applied and obtained charity status and advertised for an exercise instructor.
By the time our grant came through we had started one class a week with our few members and volunteers. Word got around and our membership increased rapidly. It soon became clear we needed more than one class to accommodate the growing numbers. I applied for various small grants and was lucky enough to obtain most of them, including three and half thousand pounds from East Cornwall Support Group. When our grants were coming to an end I applied for a five year Big Lottery Reaching Communities grant. We were told a very low percentage of applicants are awarded this kind of grant. There was obviously great excitement when we were awarded nearly £80,000.

In our fifth and the final year of our Reaching Communities Grant, I applied for a Reaching Communities Continuation Grant. A Lottery Grant Assessment Officer from Newcastle and a local Assessment Officer came to assess our project.
A few weeks later we received the wonderful news that we have been awarded a substantial Reaching Communities Continuation Grant. However, we know that the Lottery expect you to fund part of your project and have funds in reserve for when your grant comes to an end. Since we started the project we have worked very hard fund-raising and have saved over £30,000. This will supplement our Big Lottery Grant and we will continue to fundraise to ensure a secure future for our much-needed charity.


Where we are now 

Today we run four classes each week and have over 200 members on our register. We have three instructors, two project assistants and a driver to transport the housebound. We have twelve volunteers who do various jobs. Besides our classes we organise day trips, we have monthly coffee mornings with Bring and Buy tables and other social events, such as Tea Dances, Table Top Sales, and community events. Everyone is given a card when it is their birthday and we try to send Get Well cards whenever we can. We put a great deal of importance on networking and encourage our members to join other appropriate organisations.

Members love coming and turn up even when we are having a wild Cornish storm. There are so many examples showing the benefits our charity offers, that you need to come and see what we do. It is so gratifying and humbling to see so many brave people laughing, having fun and forgetting about their own problems to help others.

A vital part of our sessions is the social time. Refreshments are served before each class starts and during the thirty minutes between classes. During these times members new friends. Those that are lonely and isolated feel they belong and by helping each other they gain a greater sense of worth and happiness.