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6th May 2004
Fun run in Reading for the NSPCC
Fun runners
All together now:
"It's fun to stay at the Y...M...C...A..."

Charity-minded office workers from Thames Valley Business Park gathered to raise funds for children's charity causes.

They decided to achieve this by dressing up like loons and running five kilometres.

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It's 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 Challengers Trophy.

And they're off... That's the sumo wrestler in the background, by the way.

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 £15 million.

Today's exploits are based around the recent foundation of a website - - 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.

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