Meet Mark one of our very special volunteer fundraisers

We wanted to shine a light on those very special people that give up their time to fundraise for YPWD. This is an interview with Mark where he kindly shares why he likes raising funds for YPWD.

Could you tell us a little about who you are, what you do and how you became involved with YPWD as a fundraiser?

My name is Mark Dibben, I am a Peer Recovery Worker at Compass Recovery College, which is a mental health organisation funded by Reading Borough Council.

I was very kindly invited by one of the charity’s trustees, David Fisher, in December 2017 to help fundraise at the Sainsbury’s store in Tadley. I had been through a bit of a tough time. I have been friends with David’s son Charles for over 20 years and he suggested to me that his Dad needed some help; I’d always been keen to help out though, David and Charles had helped me a great deal through my own personal mental health difficulties, and I felt a huge sense of contentment in helping David to fundraise for YPWD.

What type of fundraising do you enjoy the most and why? As an example, do you prefer challenge based events like running a certain distance, or talking to the public in the local community?

I must say I much prefer talking to people in the community. I enjoy hearing people’s stories and to have the opportunity explain how YPWD works and what the service does for the community as a whole. It’s very rewarding and people feel ‘connected’ with the charity when they have some personal input. I feel wholeheartedly that although people take up well-meaning events that sometimes the cause can be lost after the event has finished. I always hope that by talking to people they have a lasting impression of the great work that YPWD undertakes for people living with dementia and their carers.

I am a keen runner, and a member of a couple of local running clubs, usually I run five to six days a week with three or four gym sessions, so I’m used to running!  I’d love to do a marathon and raise money for YPWD. I’ve never run a marathon and I feel the extra motivation by doing something truly worthwhile will give me the impetus to complete the 26 miles and raise the profile and a bit of money for YPWD.

What has been the one biggest surprise you have had while you have been collecting donations for YPWD?

Without doubt - the generosity of people – be it with their money and/or sharing their personal stories of dementia. I have seen people empty their wallets to give to YPWD, I have seen people look at change and then reach for a £5/10/20 note. As someone who has worked in mental health for some years, I’m always amazed how willing people are to talk about their own experiences of dementia. 

In your experience what is the most commonly asked question you have to answer when fundraising for YPWD?

Ah, good question! I think it would be “how young is a person with Young Onset Dementia?”. I reply that the charity’s services are open to anyone of 65 years and under with a diagnosis. I remember asking David on my first stint how young is 'Younger' and he asked me how old I was, I replied that I was 40 the previous Saturday and I was stunned to hear him reply “the youngest benefitting from the charity is 40”. I think people are always surprised when I say we are raising money for people in their “40s, 50s and early 60s”. I think that brings the impact home of dementia, and the fragility of life.

If you had to describe the charity in just three words what words would you use?

Kindness. Community. Compassion.

Why do you enjoy fundraising for YPWD?

Oh gosh, I think there are so many here. I feel the first thing is that I know all the money is going to a good cause, and a local charity too. Charities have a difficult relationship, the more they grow the more administrative costs can grow, many people feel unhappy that their money could be going to someone’s company car. I do feel personally that I’m making a difference, and that’s key to fundraising for YPWD.

Also, this may sound selfish, but generally people are happy to donate and talk to you about dementia, people are very grateful for what you are doing and sometimes it’s just very nice to have a chat with people, and hear their story. I’ve had a couple of people come up to me at my running club and say they have seen photos of me fundraising for YPWD, and that the charity helps a relative/friend/loved one. That means a lot when they say thank you, and how much the charity has done for them.

At what point during a day of fundraising do you enjoy the most and why?

There’s always a point in the day that you have the first person that speaks to you about the charity that’s very nice and that makes it all worth it. I run, write, and develop mental health courses for my day job and there’s an old saying in mental health that even if you reach one person then it's worth it and I feel that stands true in fundraising as well. Fundraising in supermarkets and public spaces can be a lonely experience, however, when people come up to you, have a chat and you have that lovely sincere conversation about the charity and dementia it’s always very rewarding. It’s something I always remember when we finish for the day.

What is the furthest you have run for charity, and do you have a particular running challenge you’d like to do in the future?

I ran the Reading Half Marathon for Sport In Mind in 2015. I had been unwell and had multiple stays in psychiatric hospitals. Sport In Mind were very kind to me, like every great charity they gave me a sense of belonging, and they helped me lose weight. I weighed 15st 7lbs when I left hospital, I’m now 10st 10lbs.

As I said in a previous question I’d love to run a Marathon for YPWD, and then after that perhaps something a bit different, as my ultimate goal would be to run the Comrades Ultra Marathon which is approximately 90km. Firstly though a standard marathon for YPWD! Hopefully somewhere nice and memorable, and to raise a lot of money for such a fantastic charity!