Author: Dafydd Jones
Publisher: Y Clwb Pêl Droed
Aberystwyth Town Ladies have completed the ‘North Pole Challenge’ in order to source kit and equipment, whilst also raising money for charity.
The Seasiders are targeting to raise £3,000, with players, supporters and volunteers running, walking or cycling, completing the total distance from Aberystwyth to the North Pole and back, an astounding 4,908 miles.
Funds raised by the Welsh Premier Women’s League outfit will go towards matchday teamwear, kit and essential equipment for players and coaches with the club raising 89% of their target so far.
“To be honest, it’s unbelievable,” said the Seasiders’ Kelly Thomas, who played an integral role in setting up the initiative.
“We put that £3,000 target because we worked out we want to get everybody a pair of tracksuit bottoms, a t-shirt, a sweatshirt, a rain jacket and a bag, so we worked out how much it would cost because we’ve combined with Penrhyncoch’s ladies team and they’re now called Aberystwyth Development Team, so it gives us better numbers in training.
“It gives them a better quality of coaching and we’ve got a lot more coaches on board with us now, but obviously funding kit for everyone becomes an issue with the more players that you’ve got. We put the £3,000 target because that’s what we worked out it would cost, without any expectation of reaching the target at all.
“If we got £1,000, it would just go towards it and we’d have to fund the rest ourselves, but we’re 83% of the way there now. I think we’re just over £500 off the £3,000 target.
“Literally, it’s been a mind-blow and people have been so generous so thank you to everyone who has donated so far and even a couple of businesses have seen what we’re doing on social media and have come forward and asked if they can sponsor us in any way, maybe get their logo or name on a piece of clothing, so it’s been really good.”
Aberystwyth Town Ladies, like many clubs looked to maintain fitness levels during lockdown, but Thomas explains that the idea developed to raise funds for charity as an added incentive.
“Originally, it was just something we were going to do on Strava to motivate the girls to get out and keep exercising, keep fitness level higher than they would be, because we knew we had Swansea City in the first game back and it was going to be tough.
“I think it was Lucie Gwilt, our club secretary that decided that we should make it into a Just Giving page and try and raise some money for charity and for ourselves to try and get the girls some kit so we look a bit more professional.
“Since we started, we’ve not been able to train or play, so we’ve not been able to see each other at all, but personally, for me, since being out on the bike, it gives you a kick to go out and do it, so we’ve been putting the miles in.
“I can definitely feel a difference myself fitness-wise, I’ve lost a bit of weight rather than put it on over Christmas, so it’s positive.”
With players, staff, fans and volunteers all taking part, the challenge has gained the support of the community of Aberystwyth.
“It’s really good to see,” said Thomas. “Obviously, with football being postponed now through the whole of January as well, it’s been a good way for us to keep communicating on the group chat and feeling like one team and encouraging each other.
“It’s definitely given us a topic in the group chat, congratulating each other on big rides, so when it comes to team morale, it’s been a massive boost for us, especially as we’re not allowed to see each other at the moment.
“As soon as we hit the first couple of runs and we were out on the prom in Aber, we’d bump into other people that were doing it for us as well and seeing people out and about. I remember coming home from the first one thinking it was so good that we’re all doing it and all in it together.
“With uploading things to Twitter and Facebook, we’ve had a lot more media coverage than we would in this off-period and a lot more people in the area are aware of what we’re doing and therefore, aware that we even have a ladies football team.”
The club have also vowed to donate 25% of the final total to charities Air Ambulance and MS Society.
Thomas explains that both charity’s hold a special connection to members of the Aberystwyth Town Ladies squad.
“We had a conversation which charities we’d like to sponsor. There were a few names thrown about but those two charities in particular are close to some of the girls’ hearts, so, in the background, some of the things they’ve been through, because of MS or help they’ve had from the Air Ambulance, we decided on them in the end.”
Having raised a large sum of funding for club kits and equipment, Thomas feels that completing the challenge will be of benefit to the Seasiders when the Welsh Premier Women’s League season resumes.
“Teams like Cardiff Met, Cardiff City and Swansea City have massive set-ups and always rock up to Aber looking really professional and sometimes, you feel like the game is lost before you’ve even started.
‘You rock up and some of us have got the same kit from last year and some don’t because they’re new players and it hasn’t been bought yet, so getting on the minibus all looking the same like a professional outfit will give us a better mindset when we’re turning up to these clubs, these places, looking to pick up some points.”
(Featured Image: Dafydd Jones)