Education Twitter helps teacher raise £27,000 on an underground odyssey in memory of his son

2nd August 2016 at 16:59
london underground, tube challenge, alasdair clift, fundraising, lymphoma, bloodwise
Science teacher supported by the profession as he attempts to visit every station on the London Underground

A science teacher has harnessed the power of the education world on Twitter to raise money for a cancer research charity.

Richard Clift, a science teacher at Holly Lodge Girls’ College, in Liverpool, was accompanied by his 13-year-old son, Alasdair, as he attempted to visit all 270 stations on the London Underground map.

The aim was to raise money in memory of Alasdair’s brother, 17-year-old Adam, who died of lymphoma in March. As of Tuesday afternoon, they had raised more than £27,000.

Mr Clift and Alasdair began their underground journey at 5.15am on Monday, finishing at Heathrow’s Terminal 5 in the early hours of Tuesday morning.

They visited 268 of the network’s stations. “The Circle line went a bit bonkers at the end of the day, and there was a bit of a rush around Aldgate and Tower Hill,” Mr Clift said. “So we made a strategic decision to leave out Mill Hill East.

“And all the trains to Heathrow Terminal 4 had finished for the night, so we went straight to Terminal 5. Alasdair actually wanted to go back today and do Mill Hill East and Terminal 4. I said, 'Over my dead body', or words to that effect.”

'Utter lunacy'

The fundraising scheme was Alasdair’s idea: he is fascinated by public transport. “Adam would have regarded it as utter lunacy,” Mr Clift said. “He would have hated doing it, but he would have laughed at it and been amused by it, and secretly very proud.”

The initial plan was to raise £100 for Bloodwise, a leukaemia and lymphoma research charity.

“My wife and I are both science teachers,” Mr Clift said. “And Adam was quite science-orientated. We felt that research into causes and cures was the most important thing you could do with cancer.”

They were able to raise significantly more than £100, in part thanks to the involvement of education Twitter. “Teachers are really, really into Twitter these days,” Mr Clift said. “Lots of nonsense gets spoken about education – I tend to follow lots of it.”

He asked various high-profile figures on Twitter to allow him to access their followers for a single, fundraising tweet; every one of them agreed. As a result, his message went out to more than a million people in the virtual education world.

'You'll know the right word'

And the non-virtual education world has been equally supportive, in the months since Adam’s death. The school council at Holly Lodge organised a "wear red to school day" to raise money for Bloodwise.

And, Mr Clift said, pupils were consistently thoughtful. He talked about one teenage girl who said to a colleague of Mr Clift’s: “Tell him I love him. But don’t use the word ‘love’, because that’s not appropriate. You’ll know the right word to say.”

On various occasions, he also delivered fundraising assemblies. “Each time, they gave me a round of applause,” he said. “A round of applause in assembly? You’re usually lucky if they stay awake.”

Working in education, he added, also meant that he understood the best ways to promote his and Alasdair’s underground odyssey. “I think we had a fairly young person’s approach to social media and Twitter,” he said. “How people like to be in the moment. Knowing what attracts people’s attention. That’s important, and that comes from teaching.”

You can contribute to Alasdair’s Tube challenge fund for Bloodwise here.

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