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On Sunday 01 October, Children’s Cancer North took over Gateshead International Stadium for the very first iCanMove Family Activity Day.

This brand new event, delivered in partnership with the Sir Bobby Robson Foundation, encourages children and young people in the North East and Cumbria going through cancer treatment – and young patients that have recently completed treatment – to come and try a range of sports and activities supplied by local organisations.

Research has shown exercise, fitness, and general movement can encourage a much better response to cancer treatment. Not only does it help keep the body fitter and stronger so patients experience fewer negative side effects, it also boosts mental wellbeing; making them much more equipped to deal with some of the difficult emotions that come from being diagnosed and treated for cancer.

Some of the region’s biggest sporting clubs and groups joined us for what was an amazing day. Newcastle United Foundation gave us the chance to score a penalty, Newcastle Falcons showed us how to score the perfect try, and Durham Cricket were on hand for some bowling and batting lessons.

We were flying the flag for running; letting everyone know about next year’s Children’s Cancer Run, which takes place on Sunday 19 May. Gateshead Harriers had everyone take to the tracks to try some athletics, and Cyclists Fighting Cancer – a charity that donates various styles of bikes to children and young people living with a cancer diagnosis – delivered some lessons around the 400m track.

Also in attendance was the physiotherapy team from the Great North Children’s Hospital, who work with children and young people receiving cancer treatment to help them stay fit and healthy.

Louise Graham, a Clinical Specialist Paediatric Physiotherapist at the Great North Children’s Hospital, said:

“Cancer treatment can make children feel very poorly so they spend more time in bed and less active. My role is to work together with our patients and their families to provide advice and guidance on how to keep them as physically active as possible while they are going through their treatment as we know this can lead to a better outcome.

“This can be as simple as sitting up in bed to draw, or right through to riding a bike around the ward or physio department. We really encourage children to keep moving in any way they can so they feel better and stronger physically and to help improve their overall wellbeing.”

Other activities at the iCanMove Family Activity Day included powering a smoothie maker and a Scalextrix track by bike with The Smoothie Bike Company; circus skills and balloon modeling with Dr Matt Selman, a Senior Clinical Psychologist and Family Therapist at the Great North Children’s Hospital; and dance and yoga sessions with Children’s Cancer North supporters Little Movers and Kalma Life.

In the main sports hall at Gateshead International Stadium, we had the absolute pleasure of welcoming childhood cancer survivor and World Para Powerlifting Championships medal winner, Olly Liddle, who brought gym equipment from North Tyneside BarBells, where he works as a Personal Trainer alongside Coach and Gym Owner, Steve Sharp. Steve and Olly demonstrated and coached any of the children and young people who wanted to try their hand at weight training.

It was an action-packed day and we received some fantastic feedback about the event.

One of the parents that joined us on the day said: “It’s been an amazing opportunity to come here to see the other children we’ve met on wards 4 and 14 throughout my little girl’s chemo and cancer journey.

“She loved the Little Movers part of the day; dancing, getting into music, and throwing beanbags. She also loved colouring in; my little girl loves painting and colouring.”

Another parent said: “It’s been great fun, brilliant. The kids have had such a good time and it’s just been lovely to see them taking part in everything and having so much fun.”

Some of the words the children and young people used to describe the day were “amazing”, “fun”, “great”, “exciting”, and “excellent.” The physiotherapy team in attendance were delighted to see how engaged the children were and celebrated the collaboration between the two local charity’s in enabling four years of their hopes and dreams for the patients to become a reality.

We’ve already started making plans for next year’s iCanMove Family Activity Day, which will take place again in the autumn. We are currently seeking corporate partners to support next year’s event. If your company would be interested in being part of this special day for children and young people affected by childhood cancer, please email to find out more.

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