Did you hear us on BBC Radio Sussex?

Did you know that we recently made it on to BBC Radio Sussex with an extraordinary fundraising story? 

One of our Members, Barry (Baz) Gittins has been walking miles every day on his treadmill during lockdown to raise money for Kangaroos. He has now walked an incredible 7 marathons! This is such an amazing achievement since Baz suffers from extreme autism. Lockdown has been incredibly hard for him and many of our Members who struggle without their normal routines.

Baz has walked 7 marathons to raise money for Kangaroos

Baz’s sister, Penny, was determined to help Baz establish a routine during lockdown, so set him a daily walking routine on the treadmill in their garage. It turned out to be a wonderful experience for Baz and an exceptional fundraising story for Kangaroos.

It was so amazing that Penny was invited to share the story on BBC Radio Sussex, who have been running daily ‘Make a Difference’ news features to highlight some of the amazing stories about Sussex folk during lockdown. 

Penny Gittins proudly spoke of her brother’s achievements in these unprecedented times. In case you missed the interview with BBC Radio Sussex mid-morning show host, Sarah Gorrell, here’s what Penny had to say:

Sarah Gorrell: “Now being in lockdown is really tough for most of us, particularly if you have severe autism, but Barry Gittins is putting his time to really good use. His sister Penny, joins us on the line now. Penny, thank you so much for joining us. Tell us about your brother.”

Penny: “Barry has severe autism. He’ll be 40 this year. He used to go to Court Meadows, so, a lot of structure there. He has a fantastic carer who takes him out five days a week. So he does things like walking, trampolining and really really active things. He absolutely loves being outside, but unfortunately he obviously can’t really do that at the moment. We as a family are self isolating because we have medical needs as well, so we’re trying to protect ourselves, but for Baz to understand that he can’t go out with his carer at the moment, it’s obviously very difficult.

“He’s coping amazingly well. And we’re super super proud of him, but obviously for someone with autism, you can’t explain to him why he can’t go out. He loves people and likes to go and greet people, but obviously he can’t do that. So we’re trying to sort of protect him by keeping him home. But, like I say, he’s missing out on all the active stuff that he does. So, we were thinking how can we get him active? We’ve got a treadmill in our garage, so we just thought, let’s see if we can get him on that so we started off with just 20 minutes to see how he got on and he really really liked it. We were actually really surprised at how quickly he took to it. 

Having a routine is really important

“Having a routine is really really important so we’ve tried to create a new routine for him. He knows that every day about four o’clock-ish he goes on the treadmill now. He started off doing 20 minutes and he’s now built it up. He’s doing an hour and a half out there and he’s absolutely loving it. We just can’t believe how quickly he’s taken to it. It’s absolutely amazing.”

Sarah Gorrell: “It’s impressive – an hour and a half.”

Penny: “I play football and I’m trying to get fit again, but there’s no way I could do an hour and a half out there. He’s literally like a machine. He just keeps going and going and going. He’s loved having some music out there blaring out. He keeps listening to Queen. With a lot of autistic people they like the same thing. I tried to put on different music the other day but he didn’t want anything different. We’re all sort of sick of Queen at the moment! They’re very very good but when you have it every day, it’s a little bit much!”

Sarah Gorrell: “I can imagine! Now you’ve raised an incredible amount of money already for a charity close to your heart. Tell us who Baz is raising the money for.”

Penny: “I was reporting on Facebook what we’ve been up to and how well he’s been doing. It was actually the mother of my boyfriend who said ‘Is he raising money for anyone?’ We hadn’t even thought of doing that. So we set up a just giving page for a local charity called Kangaroos, which some people may well have heard of. It’s a charity based in mid Sussex providing a range of fun activities in the community for children and young people with a range of disabilities and differing needs. 

Kangaroos is close to our hearts

“Kangaroos celebrated their 25th anniversary last year. Barry was actually one of the first young people to actually attend back then. And my mum was one of the first parents that sort of started it up, so it’s very close to our hearts. My sister used to run one of the groups and I still work there. It’s a fantastic charity that does so much. 

“So during term time, they run weekend clubs and during the week after school. In the summer holidays, they organise trips out. Like I said, last year was our 25th anniversary, so Members went on all sorts of amazing outings – Trips of a Lifetime they were called. Some of the kids got to go to Disneyland and all these big things they wouldn’t normally do. Obviously that relies heavily on fundraising and they actually managed to raise an additional £100,000 to take all these young people on these amazing trips. It’s a brilliant charity. Before Kangaroos there wasn’t really anything like that for these young people.”

Sarah Gorrell: “Obviously people can help him raise more. How do people find out more and add to that total?”

Penny: “He’s got a Just Giving page. All the money donated there will go to Kangaroos, or you can go directly onto Kangaroos website, which is www.kangaroos.org.uk. There’s a button on there you can click on to donate as well. It’s an amazing charity. It touches so many families. For many of them it’s a lifeline. Their young people get to go on trips that maybe they wouldn’t do before, but also it provides respite for the family. If there are other siblings they get to spend time and do things with the siblings that they wouldn’t get to do as well. It’s a fantastic family orientated charity that you don’t often find. A lot of siblings of our young people actually work there. It’s a real family-run charity. It’s amazing.”

Sarah Gorrell: “It sounds incredible. Thank you so much for joining us on the programme and talking about it. Really nice to talk to you. That’s Penny, Baz’s sister.”

You can still help

If you’d like to support Baz and many other young people with learning disabilities, please make a donation today. You can do that on our website here, or go to Baz’s Just Giving page here.

Thank you!