On Saturday 16 September, Kids Matter will be taking part in London’s Great River Race for the first time. As much as this is an incredible (and fun!) fundraising opportunity to support our vision to see every child in need raised in a strong family, the race route itself has deep significance for us as an organisation.

Passing under 28 London bridges and running for 21.6 miles, the race starts in Millwall, where our first and longest standing partnership is, and ends in Richmond, where Kids Matter was born.

Great River Race

It was in a playground in Richmond that the struggles of parenting and poverty collided, sparking an idea that was to become Kids Matter. After a particularly bad morning with her toddler-aged son, Eli Gardner (Kids Matter Co-founder & Executive Director) had taken him out to play. As she pushed her little boy on the swing, as much a distraction for herself as for him, she started chatting to a young mum from a local housing estate who had a child of a similar age. She was a single mum, had him at 16 and was living on the 7th floor in a very toxic environment. Life was hard.

As the morning progressed, the young mum grew increasingly frustrated with her toddler until things escalated to the point where she bit his arm by way of disciplining him. For Eli, that was a pivotal moment. She knew well that overwhelming sense of frustration but had others she could turn to in order to keep her child safe; the mum on the playground didn’t.

It was in this moment that Eli realised we need to reach mums, dads and carers like the young mum, in a way that doesn’t feel judgemental or like she is being ‘taught’ how to parent, and to consider what type of support would be manageable for her in terms of getting there or affording it.

As a practising Clinical Psychologist, Eli knew that she’d need to look outside her clinic for examples of who was doing this well. She came across Marika, an experienced family worker, who was working with families on a local estate. Eli went along to see how Marika did it and what she saw formed the template of how we do everything at Kids Matter.

Marika knew the mums and dads by name, she threw a tablecloth over a table, put a big pot of tea and plate of cakes in the middle, and they sat and ate, chatted and discussed the material from the course; helping one another and sharing insights.

Fast forward to our first Kids Matter pilot, facilitated by family worker Fuzz Dix, who is part of the leadership team (alongside her husband, Minister Ed Dix) at St Luke’s Millwall on the Isle of Dogs. Fuzz was enthusiastic about a programme that would meet the needs of the families facing disadvantages in her community.

The Isle of Dogs is part of Tower Hamlets, one of the London’s most deprived boroughs, with child poverty levels especially high. Parents in the community are often isolated and overwhelmed by their circumstances, which impacts their parenting. Our programmes equip mums, dads and carers to build strong families, enabling their children to thrive. Many (many!) groups later, Kids Matter is an integral part of the Millwall community and continues to be a major support to many families in Tower Hamlets, with parents returning as group helpers and even being trained as facilitators.

Excitingly, Ed will be rowing as part of team Kids Matter, and says of the upcoming adventure:

A chance to spend a day on the best river in the world, raising money for the best charity in the world – what’s not to love?

Suffice to say, the race is special for us and we are excited to raise money for the coming year in such a meaningful way.

Support Kids Matter at the Great River Race

Sponsor our team by clicking on our JustGiving page, and we would be equally grateful if you would spread the word about our fundraising efforts on your social media channels (sharing our JustGiving link, for example) and in conversation with friends.

There will be a Kids Matter stand so please do to come along to the event, say hello and cheer us on. Any and all encouragement will be much appreciated!


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