A teacher from Wirral will be running 30km in the Spanish heat to raise money for a cause helping his community back home.
Lewis Graham will be doing the run on 21 October from Malaga in southern Spain to the nearby city of Fuengirola to help raise money to save the Woodchurch Leisure Centre from demolition. He grew up in Upton but now lives in Spain.
The leisure centre was closed down in 2022 as part of Wirral Council’s budget cuts that year and was earmarked for demolition. However after thousands signed petitions, it was proposed to look at moving the centre into community hands.
A community group called Woodchurch Wellbeing came forward to look at taking it over with ambitious aims to provide services for the local community and get the pool back up and running.
Wirral Council has agreed to hand over the leisure centre in principle but only if the community group can raise £330,000 by the end of October. To help do this, they are hosting multiple fundraiser events and set up a fundraiser which has reached £7,000.
If it can’t raise the money in time, the leisure centre will likely be demolished and people in the local community fear it will never get its swimming pool back.
Mr Graham was inspired to do the run after seeing local news reports, adding, “I know I no longer live there but it just got me really sad and angry and thinking I want to do anything I can to help this cause.”
He said, “I am never going to lose that feeling of where I come from. I would much rather help something from my hometown before anything else because when I saw this and there was a project in place to try and save it, I wanted to do anything to try and save it because it’s more important to me than anything else.”
There’s one issue about the leisure centre he feels is especially important. He said: “It’s one of the few places that provides disabled access. The thing that really got me really angry and thinking I want to do something is that they would be totally excluded. It got me thinking it’s not fair.”
Mr Graham hopes that by doing the run, he can inspire others in the local community to set up small fundraisers to help raise money or share the fundraiser. He said, “Not everyone can donate but one thing we can all do is get together and share so more people who can donate can see.”
He added, “I do not believe I am going to save it on my own but if people watch this story and realise I do not even live there, hopefully it can inspire more people to generate funds for the same cause and then it will be worth it.”
Mr Graham remembers visiting the leisure centre regularly as a child with his family and even learned to swim there.
He said, “When I was little I had some really nice memories. My Mum and Dad would be like do you want to go to the baths? I had some really nice times, like there’s not a great deal to do for young people and it was always exciting to go to the swimming baths.
“It’s a place where everyone was included, it was a really nicer way to spend time.”
Though he’s into his fitness, he said, “One of the biggest challenges is that I am not actually a runner. This is why it is such a big deal,” adding: “I am under no illusions, it isn’t going to be easy. It’s going to be really difficult but I have had extreme positive feedback. I’ve had people reach out and share.”
He said, “If everyone who read the article, who saw the video even just shared it, the impact would be massive and it will be much easier to solve.”
Image: Lewis Graham is running 30 km to help raise money for Woodchurch Leisure Centre. Credit: Lewis Graham