The people behind Challengers
We like to think of Challengers as a big family, where everyone is welcomed, accepted and celebrated for who they are.
Together we’re part of Team Orange, and we’re on a mission to change the world for the better! From our Senior Leaders, to our volunteers in the form of Trustees, Parent Ambassadors and Patrons, here are some of the people behind the charity.
Our Senior Leadership Team
Challengers is led by a team of amazing individuals who make up our Senior Leadership Team. Together with their teams, they work hard to ensure that the charity delivers a fantastic experience for disabled children, parents, staff and supporters alike.
Having worked in the charity sector for over 17 years seeking developing life-changing programmes for disadvantaged young people, I was delighted to join Challengers in February 2022 as Chief Executive Officer. I believe that social inequality, disability nor disadvantage should prevent young people from reaching their full potential, and so I jumped at the opportunity to lead a charity that promotes a world where all children and young people can play together freely. What we do as a charity resonates deeply with my personal beliefs, lived experience and values, and I am proud to be part of Team Orange.
I have worked at Challengers for more than 20 years and absolutely love the charity. I’m passionate about the non-exclusion of disabled children and young people, and very proud to work for a charity that has this at the heart of its ethos. I started here as a volunteer Playworker and soon realised Challengers was where I need to be. Over the years I have also worked as a Leader, Leisure Development Officer, Centre Manger, Service Manager, and now I’m Head of Service – overseeing all of the charity’s operations.
I joined Challengers in 2021 as Head of Finance. After graduating from university with a Math and Economics degree, I gained my professional accountancy qualification and went on to spend more than two decades working in the financial services sector. I decided to transition to the not-for-profit sector and I am very proud to now work for Challengers alongside such a fantastic team.
With over twenty years in the charity sector, I have been lucky to gain a wide range of fundraising experience that I’m excited to bring to my new role at Challengers. With a degree in Modern Languages (surprisingly useful in fundraising), I have worked in fundraising agencies (heading up accounts including Mencap and NSPCC), in events and community fundraising at an NHS hospital, and individual supporter-focused roles at the RNLI and Ghurkha Welfare Trust. Previously Director of Fundraising at Trussell Trust and Sailors’ Society, I have also worked in various interim roles leading fundraising teams. I love the diversity of the sector and the opportunity to connect donors with causes that matter to them. I’m looking forward to doing just that at the brilliant Challengers.
Our Board of Trustees
The Board of Trustees oversees everything the charity does – from setting our strategy, to being responsible for our finances. Our Trustees are volunteers with big responsibilities, but it’s a fun and rewarding way to make a difference to the children and families we support.
Russell is a highly regarded and experienced Finance professional, having spent over 30 years in Banking and Finance. Throughout this time he has worked with a vast range of companies of all sizes, both domestic and international, helping to support their growth ambitions.
Based in Guildford, he currently leads a team at Metro Bank, focusing on Retail, Business and Commercial Banking – nurturing colleagues to provide outstanding service to their clients. Up until September he had spent 10 years as Governor at the Weald School in Billingshurst (a large secondary school with sixth form), the last five as the Chair of Governors. He brings valuable Commercial experience and a passion for the charity, having worked with Challengers for a number of years.
I’m delighted and honoured to be a Challengers Trustee, as I know what a huge difference the charity makes to the lives of disabled children and their families. I hope to use my professional experience from my career in communications and journalism to focus on the communications side of the charity’s operations, which is vital to help it sustain and grow its services.
Challengers is also a personal passion of mine as my daughter Eleanor has attended the play schemes since 2016, and I became a Parent Ambassador in 2017. It’s an invaluable part of our family life.
I came to Challengers when looking for a way to extend my experience in making sport accessible to all, and was so glad to find an organisation that focuses on opportunities for children and young people.
As a trustee, I’m focused on bringing my professional background running Operations and Service Management teams to help secure a strong future for Challengers and the community we serve.
I have been Board Secretary since 2019, ensuring that we’re following a high standard of governance and accountability as a board, and making sure we’re fulfilling our promises to the team.
I first became aware of Challengers when my children’s babysitter became a volunteer for the charity, and I remember being struck as to how happy and dedicated those working there were. Since my involvement with Challengers, this perception has been reinforced and continues to grow stronger.
In my professional life, I am a Company Secretary and have a consultancy business. We advise and support companies and third sector organisations on all aspects of governance and risk, which in turn allows their business to grow and deliver their products and services.
As a Trustee, I apply the skills I have gained in my career to Challengers. I hope my services will help Challengers to grow and prosper further, allowing many more children to experience the simple joy of play which is priceless for all children.
We first came across Challengers whilst visiting Legoland with our autistic son Thomas in 2002, and Thomas has been with Challengers ever since! I work in education, and my role is to support and understand pupils who, for whatever reason, are unable to stay within the classroom setting. I feedback everything I learn to either senior leadership, safeguarding, SENCO, and counsellors. I have my own classroom, where our pupils and others know they are able to be themselves, without the risk of exclusion, and my passion is “every child matters regardless of their ability.”
I believe that this has come from understanding my own son. Challengers have in my eyes extended this ethos, so when we met in Legoland I knew instantly that this was going to be the right place for my son and our family.
Having had no previous knowledge of Challengers, I am hugely impressed with the professionalism of the organisation and the passion for what is clearly a vital support for disabled children and their families.
I qualified as a New Zealand Chartered Accountant in the 1980s and, having worked for a major London CA firm since 1986, I certainly can offer the qualification and the experience. I bring a lot of experience of both finance and managing businesses, often in difficult circumstances, so I am excited to put this to good use.
This is my second appointment as a Trustee of a charity – the other being Faith in Action, which runs a drop-in centre supporting homeless people in Merton. My motivation is simply that I am keen to support the great work that organisations like Challengers do.
It has been over four years since my children started at Challengers Pre-school and they have now both moved up to Play – throughout that time I have had the most amazing experience with Challengers.
Challengers has inspired me so much and I want to give back to the people that gave us our life back; to the people who always go the extra mile. I am passionate about Challengers and what they offer to families in the same position as me. When you’re at Challengers you feel very much part of the family. I want to help Challengers in what ever way I can and spread the word of how amazing they are. It’s a passion of mine to help Team Orange in any way I can!
Our Parent Ambassadors
Our wonderful Parent Ambassadors are an integral part of Challengers, representing the views of the 1,000+ families who use our services. They help to spread the word about the charity’s important work, and share the positive impact it has on children, young people and families.
Prior to having my son Fergus who is severely disabled, I worked in the communications industry in Manchester, Liverpool and London and have carried the skills acquired into a new world. I am passionate about making a difference in the lives of families on the journey that they never expected to be on, and now my career has moved into working in various roles relating to disability.
As a family we have embraced Challengers as our ‘orange family’ and I have been a Parent Ambassador and Trustee for over 10 years. We have walked, run, held collection tins, attended events at Westminster and No 10, thanked lots of Challengers supporters, and made lots of speeches – and every moment of it has been fun!
I’ve made some lifelong friends through the charity and had the most incredible support from others. Life would not have been the same without Challengers.
I am a parent to twins and a physically and mentally disabled daughter. Ex-Foreign Office, a school governor and now a life coach. We have tried many different therapies and, with some surprise, realised that Challengers offered our WHOLE family some of the best therapy we could ask for.
Challengers is very much part of our family! Being an Ambassador gives me the chance to support the charity and give back to a place which has not only helped my son Toby, but the whole family. It provided us with a lifeline when things were very tough for us at the beginning of our journey with his diagnosis.
Toby has autism and other complex needs which means he needs support most of the time. Challengers has provided us with respite care so we can spend time with our daughter Lilly, and has enabled us to do things with Toby that we haven’t before as it has helped his development so much. Toby is able to play in a safe and happy environment where is is accepted for who he is.
Challengers has inspired me so much and I am passionate about what it offers families in the same position as mine – finding Challengers gave me my life back! When you’re at Challengers you feel very much part of the family and it really is Toby’s happy place, so I want to spread awareness to support the charity as much as I can.
My eldest daughter has severe learning disabilities and autism, and needs one-to-one support for everything she does. Despite the difficulties she faces, she’s still able to have fun, and no more so than when she’s at Challengers which she absolutely loves.
Challengers is a real lifeline for the whole family. It gives us a chance to breathe, knowing our daughter is happy and safe, and lets us focus on her younger sister while getting a bit of a break from our caring responsibilities. I feel passionately about doing what I can to support this amazing charity which does so much for the children, young people and families who depend on it.
Our Patrons are high-profile supporters who are particularly passionate about the work that Challengers does. They generously give their time, advice, and use their platforms to raise awareness of our cause – helping to spread the word about what we do and gain support.
Colin Hassell co-founded Challengers in 1979 with Helen Foley after discovering there were no opportunities available for disabled children to participate in sport. Something that is fundamentally important for all children is to “play” – all children, especially children with alternative abilities, need to be able to play to reach their natural growth.
Now living in Australia he continued to work with children with special needs. In addition Colin worked with RLSSWA, a charity that focuses on teaching all children to swim. Colin has now retired from the presidency of RLSSWA after 22 years of voluntary service.
In 2018 Colin ran his 52nd marathon in London in aid of Challengers and we have an annual award in his honour.
Caroline Breckell is a Deputy Lieutenant of Surrey and is the Deputy Clerk to the Lord-Lieutenant of Surrey. She assists the Lord-Lieutenant in carrying out official engagements such as Royal visits and other ceremonial duties, such as arranging investitures and Queen’s Award presentations on behalf of Her Majesty. Since 2008 Caroline has been Under Sheriff of Surrey. Caroline has been long-standing supporter of Challengers and has helped with fundraising events and introducing new supporters to the charity.
MyAnna Buring is an actress who is known internationally for her roles in The Descent, The Twilight Saga and Downton Abbey. She is a generous supporter and patron of both Challengers and Glad’s House – a charity which supports homeless children in Kenya, as well as an ambassador for Women for Women – an organisation supporting women in war torn countries.
Christopher Brewer MBE
Christopher Brewer is a Deputy Lieutenant of Surrey. A senior member of the Brewer family, he has worked hard to build a strong and supportive relationship between the Brewers family business and Challengers. The company generously donated £1million in their centenary year, enabling the purchase of the Farnham former school site from which Challengers now runs all of its services in the West.
Moira Martin is a Director of Kelly’s Storage, a family run, Guildford-based company, established in 1937. In 2010 she started Kelly’s Storage Charity Events, paying for and organising sporting events which provide huge fundraising opportunities for local charities. Their first event took place in October 2010 and raised £30,000 for Challengers. This success inspired Moira to continue to roll out the model and over the years they have continued to work closely with Challengers, delivering two fundraising events each year to benefit the charity. Moira is passionate about helping those less fortunate and feels strongly that successful businesses should do all they can to help charities such as Challengers continue their invaluable work in the community. So far, she has raised over £800,000 for local charities with over half a million pounds for Challengers alone.
Peter Gordon is an accomplished broadcaster and performer, best known for being the founder of Surrey’s local radio station Eagle Radio, where he was a director and presented the breakfast show for over 25 years. Peter is a regular in local pantomime at the Yvonne Arnaud and heavily involved with other community activities, as well as advising local groups and businesses on media, communications and company culture. He has been a Challengers supporter for many years and we are very grateful for his help in raising awareness of the charity.
Rachel Morris MBE
Rachel Morris is a British Paralympian who has competed for Paralympics GB winning Gold in handcycling & rowing. She spends a lot of time out on trail runs, wild camping & boxing, whilst enjoying them herself also works to enable these & many other local sports be accessible for all those who want to enjoy them. Rachel works in main stream & special educational needs with students to support their mental health (confidence, resilience etc) & physical needs (access to PE, sport & life skills such as wheelchair skills). She is passionate about enabling those with communication needs access to talking therapies.
Rachel works in main stream & special educational needs with students to offer support to parents & students (advocacy role) who need EHCPs through the process and to those students who maybe out of school to start building their confidence etc.
Jenny Seagrove is a theatre, film and television actress best known for her roles in Judge John Deed, Another Mother’s Son, A Woman of Substance and Local Hero. As well as supporting Challengers, she is the founder of Mane Chance Sanctuary, Compton, Guildford – a charity which rescues abused and abandoned horses and works with them in the community.
Michael Buerk is a journalist and broadcaster. Michael first became involved with Challengers in the 1980s and continues to support us at a number of fundraising events, speaking publicly about our work in order to raise awareness of the charity. He is a strong advocate of Challengers because of our non-exclusion policy and keen for other charities to learn from the Challengers model.
Derek Arden is a best selling author, award winning speaker and negotiation consultant.
He coaches and mentors Challengers fundraisers and business club members on presenting, pitching and negotiating the very best outcomes.
Michael More-Molyneux is HM Lord-Lieutenant of Surrey. His family have lived at Loseley Park since it was built in the 16th century. Appointed in 2015, he plays a large role in a number of local organisations and actively supports many voluntary causes. He often receives members of the Royal Family when they visit Surrey, including Her Royal Highness Princess Beatrice’s visit to Challengers in June 2019.
Larry is Chairman and founder of COINS; a global software solutions company started over 30 years ago and now with over 400 staff in offices in the UK/USA/Australia and Dubai. He is also a founder of five other niche market software houses, including one in Poland and one in Russia. His past directorships include CSBI SA (Poland), Computerland Poland, CSBI EE (Russia), CSB Meridian, and Matrix Ventures. Until sold Larry was Chairman of Total Objects a supplier of software to the insurance market.
Larry is also a shared value guided angel investor with a focus on AI, Fintech, Regtech, biotech and engineering as well as tech enabled impact investments.
Fancy joining us at
We’re always looking for new members of staff to join the Team Orange. Take a look at our latest job vacancies, and see if there’s something for you!
Whether you’re looking for an office-based role, or want to have fun and get stuck in with the children on the play floor, there’s a role at Challengers for everyone.