DownsLink Challenge 2023... what a day! - YMCA DownsLink Group

DownsLink Challenge 2023… what a day!

A group of four people taking part in the DownsLink Challenge. They have their arms in the air making the shape of 'YMCA'

Well, what an amazing day! Thanks to everyone who walked, volunteered, or supported this year’s DownsLink Challenge. Despite the dire forecast, the weather was much kinder than expected. At times it felt like we were in a washing machine, but thankfully it stayed dry. So far, we’ve raised over £13,000 but the total is likely to be even higher.


As well as many supporters, we had lots of residents taking on the challenge this year. They each brought a special energy to the event. Highlights included seeing Josh (who you may remember from last year and now lives in our transitional housing) get to the finish before we’d even set up the flags. He did it in under 5 hours and raised over £200. What was even more heartening was to see his family come to celebrate his achievement, which, for those that know him, was a very special moment.

 Josh, resident, smiling with his medal around his neck after finishing the challenge. He is stood with his arms around his family

We had a huge team of young people and staff from YMCA Guildford who didn’t seem to stop smiling, even after the 17.5 miles. They almost got off to a disastrous start as Geordie, Night Worker, set off in the wrong direction (watch our instagram video here if you haven’t seen it). He doesn’t have the greatest track record as last year he took a wrong turn and they ended up walking 21 miles. But, despite his poor map reading skills, it’s clear that the young people love him and would follow him anywhere!

Dennis and Geordie smiling at the camera, holding up their finisher medals. They are both also wearing a pink YMCA DownsLink Challenge t-shirt Two of the Guildford residents taking a selfie together. They are both wearing a pink YMCA DownsLink Challenge t-shirt

Residents from Brighton and Worthing, joined the team for East Sussex and it was the first time either of them had set themselves such a big challenge. Worthing resident Georgia’s target was to raise £100 which we’re delighted to say she did. She was also met by her family and it was lovely to see how proud they all were of her.

Amy, Georgia, Cree, Bryony and Lucy stood in a line on the woodland pathway smiling at the camera. Everyone is wearing a pink YMCA DownsLink Challenge t-shirt Georgia sat on the grass with her younger sister sat in her lap

Our staff who walked were also amazing (although hurting at the end a little more than our residents 😉). We can’t believe that our chaplain Lucy and Night Worker Geordie have done all 3 walks – we’re sure that must merit some kind of special medal! But, there’s also an army of people who volunteer and give their time to make the DownsLink Challenge happen. From enabling our residents to take part, to running the refreshment stops and cheering at the end. The event just couldn’t happen without them. 

Nikki, Julia, and her Dog Bruce smiling next to a pink YMCA flag on the woodland pathway

And, we must give a special mention to our youngest volunteer and supporter, Hunter. He’s our East Sussex & Guildford Chaplain Elly’s grandson and, not only did he wave everyone off and cheer everyone back, but he absolutely rocked his YMCA T shirt! (Oh and he made a whole lot of new friends too….)

Hunter, Ely's grandson eating an ice cream wearing a huge DownsLink Challenge t-shirt Guildford residents talking to and looking after Hunter, Elly's grandson. All sat on the grass in the sunshine

We do hope we’ve inspired you to get involved next year. We can’t wait 😊!


YMCA enables people to develop their full potential in mind, body and spirit. Inspired by and faithful to our Christian values, we create supportive, inclusive and energising communities, where young people can truly belong, contribute and thrive.

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