Steve Walker

Council director takes leap of faith and abseils down 10-storey building in Leeds

A fearless council director experienced highs and lows after successfully abseiling down Leeds Beckett’s famous Portland Building this weekend.

Steve Walker, director of children and families at Leeds City Council, carried out the challenge on Saturday as one of three set down by the Leeds Care Leavers Council to help raise funds for the Leeds Christmas dinner for care leavers in the city.

The challenges were planned in stages so that once £500 had been raised Steve would be challenged to take on the Yorkshire Three Peaks which he recently completed; once £1,000 had been raised he was to take on the abseil; and when the final target of £3,000 is reached he will bravely take on the challenge of a skydive.

All the money raised will help towards the overall cost of putting on the dinner on Christmas Day for approximately 50 care leavers and their children. The aim of the dinner is to reduce loneliness and isolation amongst this group on Christmas day and beyond. The idea was created by inspirational poet and care leaver Lemn Sissay and launched in Manchester six years ago. This year will be the fifth Leeds Care Leavers Christmas Dinner.

Steve Walker, Leeds City Council’s director of children and families said:

“Christmas is a very special time, it is about family and togetherness. This can make it a very difficult and lonely time for young people who have left care. Some years ago a group of care leavers heard of the idea of a Care Leavers Christmas Dinner that brought care leavers, who would otherwise be on their own, together to celebrate Christmas. The event is organised by the young people themselves, supported by volunteers and is funded entirely by donations.

“The abseil to raise funds was the care leavers’ idea and I was happy to accept the challenge for such a good cause. The fact that so many staff from across children and families services have also volunteered is brilliant and shows that care leavers are part of the family.”

Councillor Fiona Venner, Leeds City Council’s executive member for children and families said:

“We have a bold ambition to make Leeds the best city for children and young people to grow up in. To help drive this ambition forward, I am delighted that we continue to provide a wide range of help and support for our care leavers – together with our valued partners across the city, from all sectors.

“While Christmas is such a wonderful time of year for many people, for some of our care leavers it can be a very difficult and lonely period. The Leeds Care Leavers Christmas Dinner offers a wonderful opportunity for our care leavers who have similar experiences to spend time together, get support from their peers and celebrate Christmas.

“I am proud to support this fantastic event and delighted that many of my councillor colleagues have joined me in donating funds to put towards gifts for our care leavers this year. It really goes to show that, when we work together, we can achieve amazing things in our city.”

Lisa Holdsworth, Chair of the Leeds Care Leavers Christmas Dinner steering group said:

“Every year we are overwhelmed by the generous donations of money, gifts and time from the people of Leeds. However, this year Steve really has gone above and beyond with his challenges. We couldn’t be more grateful or impressed.”

To donate, visit www.crowdfunder.co.uk