Ambitious with good reason

How the money raised by Manchester to London is used

In the noble pursuit of challenge events, the runners and riders can often lose sight of the far nobler causes that they are raising funds for. They get caught up in the difficulty of the test ahead and the moment of glory that the finish line promises.

In the face of some of the astonishing work and worthwhile causes supported, this is a great shame. For Rapha’s Manchester to London ride (M2L), which takes place every September in aid of Ambitious about Autism, a UK charity dedicated to making the ordinary possible for children and young people with autism, this isn’t the case.

“Like a lot of these events, many of the M2L participants sign up with the challenge of the ride at the forefront of their minds and the charity secondary. However, as soon as they engage with the people we work with at Ambitious about Autism they learn and understand more about what we do and the real difference their contribution can make,” says Jay Hunt, Head of Events and Community at the charity. “Many participants come back to us afterwards asking how else they can help support our work, which is fantastic.”

The day before the Manchester to London Challenge 2015, Rapha founder Simon Mottram spoke emotionally about the day-to-day challenges of being a parent to a child with autism and the difference that charity-funded institutions like TreeHouse School and Ambitious College have made to the life of his family.
Photo: Matt Randall

In just three years, Rapha have raised almost £500,000 for Ambitious about Autism. The funds are unrestricted and in the world of charity fundraising where money is often designated by the donor to specific projects – on which they require quantitative and qualitative results in exhaustive reports – this freedom is a godsend. It means the charity can get on with doing what they do so well and put the money towards a wide variety of essential services. To give some context to the £500,000 raised by Rapha and the impact it will have, below are a few examples of what the money could be used for:

  • £1250 could fund one week’s autism training for teachers, enabling them to better support the 70% of children with autism in mainstream education.
  • £2320 could pay for four TreeHouse School pupils to spend a week at an autism friendly residential activities centre where they will have the chance to experience staying away from home, often for the first time.
  • £10,720 could cover the cost of fitting out a classroom at the new Ambitious College.
  • £38,280 could cover the cost of an Occupational Therapist for a year to support on daily living skills.
TreeHouse School, Highgate. This is the biggest campus and is home to 87 students and 250 staff during term time.
Photo: Ben Pipe Photography

Started in 1997 by a group of parents who decided to campaign for change because they never wanted their children’s potential to be compromised, they started out in a borrowed classroom at the Royal Free Hospital in London. Since then Ambitious about Autism’s growth in the last 19 years has been inspiring. The purpose-built TreeHouse School and Ambitious College (with two campuses) currently serve over 124 young people from 20 London boroughs, and blueprints are in place for anybody looking to set up similarly specialised education services elsewhere in the United Kingdom.

There is a saying that ‘if you have met one person with autism, you have met one person with autism’ because the nature of a spectrum condition means that the disability affects everyone differently. When attending mainstream schools, the highly individual needs of learners with autism are invariably held back by a system that lacks the knowledge or expertise to support them, and they are often excluded or bullied. Ambitious about Autism are a dedicated team of professionals who are passionate about supporting children and young people to live happy and fulfilling lives in their home communities. The curriculum is highly personalised to help them achieve their goals

The sad fact remains that after leaving school, only 15% of adults with autism go on to work full time and many enter residential care or simply stay at home. The need to engage and empower these young people as they reach adulthood, therefore, is desperate. Ambitious about Autism addresses this not only with its college (for ages up to 25), but also with a series of services including Talk about Autism, a website community with fantastic content produced by parents, careers and people with autism.

The first Rapha event in support of Ambitious about Autism was Bordeaux-Paris in 2013, where rider David was cheered across the line by his wife Gayle and son Harry having covered a distance of 617km in less than 24 hours and raised over £6,500 for Ambitious about Autism.

The charity has also taken on a greater role in campaigning for change and raising awareness at a national level in the last few years and Jay believes that changing misconceptions and spreading the word is an important part of what Manchester to London achieves too:

“In going out and talking to people about why they are riding, the M2L participants often discover that autism affects somebody they know – 1 in 100 young people are on the spectrum after all,” he says. “They talk about autism and the work of Ambitious about Autism to their friends, who are also often inspired to spread the word themselves. If people can understand better the intricacies of autism, the difficulties of being a parent to a child with autism and some of the work that charities like us do to try and help, we’re already making a difference.”

Entries for Manchester to London 2018 on Sunday 2nd September are now live. Sign up now and help raise money for Ambitious about Autism:


M2l 2018 »