CAMHS Challenge for Start360

The Child and Adolescent Mental Health Service (CAMHS) promotes emotional wellbeing and delivers mental health services to children and young people up to the age of 18. Start360 services work closely with CAMHS to ensure that young people have the support they need. It is from this close working relationship that the CAMHS Challenge for Start360 was born....

The Idea

After two years of navigating life in a pandemic whilst also trying to support the mental health needs of local young people; two brave souls came up with the idea of beating the post-Christmas blues by setting the team in CAMHS a Challenge. What started off as a simple email to gauge levels of interest very quickly escalated to almost 50 very enthusiastic people wanting to get involved. Whether it was walking or running and even one was willing to run the whole 26.2 miles. This included both current and past staff members.


Once we had gathered volunteers we set to the task of agreeing which charity we would fundraise on behalf of. START360 was quickly identified as the most popular choice. Within CAMHS this would be a service we would often refer young people to given the range of supports they offer. We have found their services especially helpful for those young people who are fast approaching their 18th birthday. Their support has assisted both us and our young people to bridge the gap, during what can be a very difficult transition from Children to Adult Services.

CAMHS staff visiting Start360 in the build up to Belfast City Marathon

Fundraising & Preparation

Initially we had set a target of £5,000; however this was quickly surpassed due to the efforts of all involved. In the lead up to the big event, staff members got out of their comfort zones and took to the streets of Belfast in preparation, often meeting after work to run around the local parks. This occurred in rain, hail or snow. Given the previous restrictions this was the first time many staff members got to meet others in person. This did well for staff working relationships and also provided a source of fun and weekly entertainment.

Those two brave souls who back in January thought they would only be organising one or two teams; quickly realised how much work went into pulling off a venture of this scale. There were many late nights, telephone calls, emails and frantic conversations as we tried to ensure all 50 staff members were registered. The week before the marathon was frantic with marathon fuel activity which included quick dashes to collect packs, t-shirts and even a few last minute changes to the running line up. On occasion staff member’s families were also drafted in last minute. Amidst the chaos the now sleep deprived pair went down to meet the staff in Start360 and to of course show off our bright neon t-shirts. Throughout the entire organisation process, Gerry McVeigh (Assistant Manager within Start 360) was a life saver as he helped us overcome hurdles such as setting up the Just Giving page etc.

Marathon Day

On the day, despite waking up to rain, spirits could not be dampened. A very motivated, eager and slightly nervous team made their way to their designated starting points. Proudly wearing their neon attire. As those running the first leg started to come in there was a great sense of comradery, as we all cheered and celebrated each other’s achievements. For many this was their first time taking part in the Belfast City Marathon; however it won’t be their last. As the excitement rose, many made their way to the Ormeau Park to see friends and colleague cross the finish line. Gerry from Start360 even made an appearance and was instrumental in congratulating everyone in their efforts.

On return to work after the much appreciated bank holiday; the brave two were inundated with messages of positivity and gratitude in what was the biggest team building event ever held by CAMHS.

Feedback from CAMHS Staff

“Thank you so much for taking this challenge on. I loved every minute of it and the buzz on the day was incredible. It wouldn’t have happened without the efforts of you both in coordinating and encouraging us all. Anne has agreed to come back from retirement later this year to lead us all again in 2023………..only joking Anne…..or am I lol? Thanks again folks and well done everyone” Ciaran

“Such a fantastic experience! Thank you Anne and Catherine for all the effort you put into the organising” Gillian

“Thank you both for all the effort, planning & encouragement that went into making it happen. A super day and great memories!! I agree with Anna, I saw Caroline running to the finish line and she looked the same after running the full 26 miles – Just Brilliant! Over £ 7,000 raised for Start 360 & counting!!” Frances

“Hey, I’m so glad I took part in this! Feels so rewarding to have been a part of this! Thank you for organising everything, you and Catherine! You really motivated everyone and put together a great team!" Dorcas

“Great photos Anne! What a fab event to have organised, proper community and team spirit and great fundraising too! You’re a star! Xx" Amy S

“Thanks so much for organising Anne and Catherine – a great day out. All those bright yellow t-shirts and familiar faces definitely made it much more fun along the way J you all did amazing! Ps Thanks for the compliments but I can confirm I definitely don’t look quite so fresh faced this morning – Zzzzzz (and I am still walking funny!) But I’m up for an annual effort for sure!" Caroline J

“Thanks to Ann and Catherine for organising and taking on so much with it all. Great day out with CAMHS. I’d love to see this as annual event!!” Nicky

“Awesome amount raised. What great organising Anne & Catherine, thank you! Everyone’s medals very well deserved. Hats off to all the runners from legs to the full thing – Wow just WOW!" Claire K

“Anne/Catherine, thank you so much for organising! Brilliant experience and fabulous amount of money raised! Also big Congratulations to Caroline Thompson for completing the whole Marathon- what an achievement and still looking fresh for photos at the end! Best wishes" Lara

“Taking part in the relay of this year’s marathon with my colleagues was exactly what we all needed to be able to come together after the chaos of the last 2 years with Covid-19. It was a great way to get active and raise money for an outstanding and vital organisation for young people’s mental” health." Cliona

Written by Anne & Catherine from CAMHS.