a bit before lunchtime on an overcast but essentially stable day
(around 15 degrees centigrade) in Thames Valley Business Park. Lined
up in a car park near the pond are an enormous sumo wrestler, a
pair of American footballers, a decidedly hirsute nurse and two
people playing football.
They come to some semblance of order as a lady starts ordering them
to do leg stretches and hand claps as warmup exercises.
Why? This motley crew is composed of staff from Microsoft, Oracle,
British Gas and other companies in the Park. They're raising money
for the NSPCC - a charity Microsoft has been supporting for ten
years, as it's a cause close the staff's hearts. Today they're doing
a 5km fun run to raise sponsorship towards the annual Microsoft
they're off... That's the sumo wrestler in the background, by
There are somewhere near 200 people running, and they've all paid
their £10 entry fee, but several of them will have raised individual
sponsorship, some of which is being matched by their parent companies.
Over the last ten years, the total raised has been in the area of
Today's exploits are based around the recent foundation of a website
- www.there4me.com - which aims to complement the work done by ChildLine.
The blurb from the front page says it best:
" The site is for all 12-16 year-olds living in England, Wales,
Northern Ireland and the Channel Islands. It's to help you find
solutions to your problems.
There's on screen advice about all sorts of things...bullying, relationships,
exams, drugs, difficulties at home, to name just a few. Or you can
send an e-letter to Sam, our agony aunt.
If you'd prefer a confidential private session, you can talk 1-2-1
in 'real time' with an NSPCC adviser, or e-mail for reply within
24 hours. You don't have to say who you are - you stay in control."
It's a response to the realisation that it's easier for some children
to communicate their concerns over the web than it is to pick up
a phone, even in the age of the mobile.
So the tech-company employees are huffing their way around the course
in a good cause, and looking rather splendid while they do so.