The CEO of Preston based rape and sexual assault support centre, Trust House Lancashire, is running two marathons over the next few months, to help fund the charity's increasingly in-demand services.
Catherine Smith, 55 from Penwortham, will be completing the London Marathon this Sunday, followed by the Portsmouth Marathon in December, which will be 52.4 miles in total.
By Christmas, Catherine aims to have raised £10,000 for the charity and says she has set herself this ambitious target to represent her “doubly difficult” sporting challenge, and also as a nod to her tenth year of running.
Catherine, who has worked for Trust House for 8 years, becoming CEO in 2018, said: “I’ve been trying to get into the London Marathon for years to raise money for Trust House, and I’ve finally been successful, then last year, I booked to do Portsmouth Marathon but that's been rescheduled for this December, which means I'm now doing two this year, which would never have been my plan, but it just makes it an additional challenge and something worth raising money for even more.”
Trust House Lancashire is a charity which has worked with sexual violence and abuse victims in the county since 2014, and Catherine says referrals to their services have increased year on year, and at an ever faster rate since the pandemic.
Catherine said: “We want to make sure that when individuals take that step to reach out and ask for help, that we're able to provide it at the earliest opportunity, so we've been working really hard over the last year to build our capacity in order to do that. We don't want to ask people to wait, we know that's not good for them, and all the money that we can raise for Trust House helps us to meet that demand.
“To give you a sense of that, in the year to March, this last year, we worked with over 900 individuals in Lancashire and had over 700 new requests for support. Sexual violence, sexual abuse, rape, affects a lot of people's lives and causes a significant amount of trauma for them. Many people take a long, long time to come forward and seek help, and so we work with a huge age range, from four years old, right up to 74 years or older, and we also help families recover too.
“We see the impact on a daily basis and we want to make sure that individuals have really timely support that’s tailored to their needs, so any money that we raise through my marathon running helps us to achieve that for our clients."
The money will go towards counselling and therapy for individuals and their families, the charity's wellbeing project which helps people come to terms with their trauma and empowers them with self-support tools moving forward, and also specialist training which they provide for other professionals.
Catherine explained: “We go out and work with other professionals and organisations in the community to improve their responses to victims and survivors of sexual violence, because our service users tell us that they don't always have a good response, and historically, responses have been very poor, and we want to encourage people to seek the support that they need, so that they can recover and move on with their lives."
In order to provide these services in Lancashire, the charity relies heavily on donations, which has not managed to keep up with the rise in demand, and is why such fundraising events are so vital.
Catherine, who has so fair raised 10% of her fundraising goal, added: "Every single penny that we get at Trust House really helps us to continue with our work, and it helps us to grow so that we can meet the demand.
“I want to say thank you to all those people that have already sponsored me, and everyone else, please support what we do, it's a really important cause for local people, it’s a vital local charity.”