RESIDENTS from a Reading based drug and alcohol recovery community worked up a sweat pummelling punch bags at a Wokingham fitness club this week.
The men are all members of Hope And Vision communities, a Christian organisation that provides homes, support, and understanding for those struggling to break the cycle of addiction.
Some residents have signed up to join the charity’s founder and CEO, Tony Attwood, who will be climbing 21 Lake District peaks over two days in November, to raise money for Hope And Vision.
To help the group train for their mega climb, fitness organisation Places Leisure have given all 17 Hope And Vision residents 12 weeks of free gym membership.
The company runs seven gyms and sports centres across the borough,including Wokingham’s boxing gym.
On Monday, staff at BXGFIT took the group through their first boxercise session, to launch the initiative.
Healthy communities manager at Places Leisure Molly Hale said: “We’re excited to be teaming up with Hope And Vision.
“We know that physical activity has so many benefits for a whole range of people, particularly those who have experienced drug and alcohol addiction.
“It can reduce symptoms of anxiety, stress, and depression, which can all be triggers for relapse.
“Physical activity is a great way to support long term recovery, and we are delighted too to be playing a part in the group’s 21 Peak challenge, helping them to raise money to support more men who really need their services.”
Pulling punches with the team were Paul Blair of Abingdon Extreme Fundraisers, and British Olympian athlete, commonwealth judo gold medal winner, and ambassador for Hope And Vision Danny Williams.
“I jumped at the chance of joining the 21 peaks challenge when Tony mentioned it,” Mr Williams said.
“I was a full time competitive athlete when we first met and Tony told me about the charity.
“I was really keen to get involved, and became an ambassador.
“It’s great to see the charity helping a growing number of residents on their road to recovery.
“I grew up without a father, and I really value the people who gave up their time for me at the sports clubs I trained in.
“I knew how important they can be.”
Paul Blair’s connection with Tony Attwood is profound.
Like Tony, he was sentenced and served time.
Also like Tony, he was sent to prison by Judge Peter Ross, who is now chair of Hope And Vision.
Peter and Tony’s working friendship is a remarkable story, and can be read on the charity’s website.
Paul was recently re-introduced to Peter Ross, whom he hadn’t seen since his conviction.
Paul said: “I have a very personal reason for wanting to help.
“I met Tony in prison, and the judge that sent him away sent me away too.
“My life has completely changed now, and it’s only right that I give a bit back, and help Tony and the team make some money for their great journey.
“They are supporting others who have been in the same situation as me.
“I’ve really enjoyed today, and I’ll do my best on the challenge.
“Difficult things can seem out of reach, but they’re not.
“They’re never out of reach.
“Since I’ve come out of prison, I’ve got my own boxing club, my own swimming group, and I’m a founder of a charity.
“It shows that a mountain that can seem so big, is actually smaller than you think, and you can get over it.”
Tony is looking forward to the mountain climb, but recognises it’s going to be a real challenge.
He joked: “It’s good for me, but I don’t always like what’s good for me.
“A little bit of me regrets signing up for the challenge, but I’m committed now.
“And it’s going to be really good to do this together with the guys.
“We’re going to look at each other, and not at the mountain.
“You can make mountains out of molehills, but hopefully, we’ll make molehills out of mountains, and raise money for people who have been where we have, to help them flourish.”
Hope And Vision business developer Louise Griffin said: “These are all men who have climbed mountains to overcome difficulties in their lives.
“The 21 Peaks challenge is a chance to show that with the right people to support you, you can climb any mountain.
“Hope And Vision is a community that says ‘yes, you can’.
“That’s what you need to hear when you are climbing.
“Succeeding at a challenge like this can give the men confidence to believe that they will get jobs, that they can get their driving licence back, and have their family back.”
The men will tackle The 21 Peaks Challenge on November 11 and 12, and hope to raise £5,000.
For information about Hope And Vision, visit: www.hopeandvision.org.uk
For BXGFIT, log onto: www.placesleisure.org
Abingdon Extreme Fundraisers can be found at their Facebook page, and to support the Hope And Vision 21 peaks challenge, visit:
www.justgiving.com and search for Paul Blair.