Mayor’s Charities gifted places in Sunderland 10k

Three children with Santa Claus.

Events of the North has partnered with Sunderland City Council to gift two charities entry places to Sunderland City Runs. The two charities, HUG in a Bag and The Special Lioness, are the Mayor’s Charities for 2023-2024. Each year, the Mayor promotes their chosen charities through fundraising and events during their year in office.

HUG in a Bag is a Sunderland-based charity started in 2006, by three women who met, laughed, cried and supported each other during their treatment for breast cancer. They found that sharing their thoughts, anxieties and concerns was extremely helpful. Forming a strong friendship, they decided to give back to others who were going through or had been through the same journey in the North East.

HUG in a Bag provide bags containing information and gifts to every person diagnosed with breast cancer in University Hospital of North Durham and Darlington Memorial Hospital. Each bag contains £80 worth of products, including items for both men and women; a notepad and pen, scarf, bubble bath and a candle, plus contents specifically for women, such as cushions, lip balm, nail varnish and a mirror, and contents for men, including a shaving brush, shaving cream and a travel bag.

“HUG itself stands for Help, Understanding and Glamour, and our aim is to give one more hug in the form of a bag containing gifts and information leaflets to every person diagnosed with breast cancer,” says Fundraising Manager, Emma.

A table with an array or care products, from teddy bears to pillows and hygiene products.
HUG in a Bag provides care products for people diagnosed with breast cancer in the North East.

Help because in the bag they wanted to provide as much helpful information as they can, where to get support, where to find good post-surgery bras or wigs, financial support and much more. Understanding because the three behind the charity all understand the journey, the fears, the ups and downs that recipients of the bags would be going through. Glamour because the bag is filled with pamper products, feel good products and things to make recipients smile. And of course, a HUG, because in times of fear, sadness and uncertainty who doesn’t need or want a HUG?

Craig Thompson is running Sunderland City 10k on behalf of HUG in a Bag, hoping to raise money for a charity with personal significance: “The Sunderland 10k is something that I have always wanted to do. I did the Great North Run this year less than a year after knee surgery and now I want to tick the Sunderland 10k off this list. Doing it under the banner of Hug in a Bag is a hugely personal one, one of the founding members was my late auntie who was a truly amazing person. She always looked out for me when I was younger, for me to give something back to the charity is an honour as it has always held a special place in my heart.”

Two adults on a boat with a child in a wheelchair.
The Special Lioness charity aims to create happy, joyful memories for families and children with life-limiting conditions.

The Special Lioness was founded in Sunderland in 2017 by two mums of children with profound and life-limiting conditions. Claire and Amy created The Special Lioness after finding each other at a time of darkness and isolation and realising that they needed someone there to help them learn that although their children are medically complex, they are still children and they still need, and deserve, to have fun and make memories.

Since establishing the charity, they have held many exciting events from day trips to Beamish, spectacular fire and ice balls, but also the mundane but essential coffee and play groups so that Mums and children have somewhere to go to meet similar families and have a safe environment to talk, ask for help, reach out and help others.

“Over the years the challenges faced being a Mum of a complex and unpredictable child meant that at times the charity had to come second. Times got difficult and decisions needed to be made, but ultimately at the heart of the charity is the desire to be the service that families need at the start of this terrifying, isolating but equally magical and incredibly rewarding journey,” says Claire. With that passion and drive, the charity expanded and with a board of four trustees, all with real life experience of raising and caring for medically complex children, the charity continues to thrive.

The Special Lioness now reaches more families than ever, offering a fortnightly coffee group and play groups from birth to adults. They also put on memorable events such as surf lessons with Santa on the beach in July and the popular sensory on the sea boat ride.

The charity thrives to be, and is widely acknowledged as a huge source of support, social inclusion and memory makers in the area. “We are always looking for new ways and opportunities to break down barriers, overcome obstacles and deliver fantastic family friendly events. We ensure that our services and support are as open and inclusive as possible, with no diagnostic criteria, no geographical boundaries and no age restrictions. Because ultimately if someone feels that they fit within our pride, they are welcome!”

Mayor of Sunderland, Councillor Dorothy Trueman, says: “I am truly grateful to Events of the North for kindly gifting the Mayor’s charities and good causes with free entry into the 10k run and I know those running on behalf of my charities are also very thankful. This year we are supporting the Special Lioness and HUG in a Bag as the Mayor’s charities because they are doing such fantastic work in and around Sunderland, supporting families with disabled children and people diagnosed with breast cancer. I know they will gratefully receive the sponsorship money raised by people taking on these challenges, and that it will help them continue their work to help others in and around the city.”

To get involved with fundraising or donate to HUG in a Bag and The Special Lioness, find out more via their websites.

Sunderland City Runs 10k and half marathon will take place on the 12th May 2024.