Girl power rules as kids’ hospital feels Julie’s love

Julie MacDonald, Sheffield's  Mistress Cutler.
Julie MacDonald, Sheffield's Mistress Cutler.
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For years the Master Cutler’s Challenge has harnessed the heroic fundraising efforts of Sheffield businesses and individuals in a bid to raise money for charity.

But this year, the huge fundraiser has a twist – it’s the Mistress Cutler’s Challenge, organised by Julie MacDonald, the Master Cutler’s wife and former Cutler’s Hall archivist.

“I love it,” says Julia. “It’s been going for about six or seven years as the Master Cutler’s Challenge but this year it’s the Mistress Cutler’s Challenge. In the past other people have taken over the fundraising but I’m not someone who sits on the background.”

Her charity of choice is the Children’s Hospital. “Everybody has been a child, everybody knows a child and most people know of a child who has been treated at the Children’s Hospital. The work they do there is amazing and the staff are just brilliant.”

Sheffield Children’s Hospital is one of only four in the country.

“People are often surprised by the fact there are only four designated children’s hospitals in the country,” says Julie. “We are very lucky to have the Children’s Hospital in Sheffield.

Money raised from the challenge will go towards the Children’s Hospital Make It Better appeal and almost 100 teams from local businesses, organisations, clubs and schools have taken up the Challenge.

But this isn’t an ordinary charity fundraiser. In February this year participating teams were given £50 and sent away to make the money grow.

“We have had businesses, individuals and schools take part in the challenge. Parkwood Academy and King Ecgbert have taken part and they have included this in their business studies teaching,” says Julia, who also works with Girl Guide groups across Sheffield.

But it’s not just the variety of candidates in the Mistress Cutler’s Challenge that’s impressive, the range of challenges is staggering too.

Jonathan Wilkinson and Steve Shaw from AESSEAL Mechanical Seals in Rotherham recently completed not just one, but three marathons in three days, raising more than £4,500.

A team from Sheffield insolvency experts Begbies Traynor cycled 170 miles in one day for Mistress Cutler’s Challenge – but didn’t leave their offices.

Dressed as the curly-mopped ‘118 118’ men, eight brave volunteers from the firm pedalled away on exercise bikes.

But that’s not all.

The Children’s Hospital has launched a giant ‘Great Global Bake-Off’ contest with a huge cake in the shape of what the hospital will look like after its £40million transformation, for which work will start in the next few months.

The aim of the Great Global Bake-Off is for budding pâtissiers to create a cake like no other. Proceeds from selling the cake to sweet-toothed friends and family will be given to the Make It Better campaign.

The Make It Better campaign has been developed to encourage individuals, businesses, schools and local communities to support the hospital with their own fundraising initiatives.

The aim of the campaign is to raise funds to modernise the hospital in areas such as the entrance, reception, a ground-floor outpatients department, en-suite patient bedrooms on three new wards to allow families to stay together and sensory gardens for patients to relax or play.

Simon Morritt, chief executive at Sheffield Children’s NHS Foundation Trust, said: “We’re delighted to launch our competition being run by staff from our hospital and we want as many people as possible to get involved.

“We’re asking people all over the world who may have had a connection with the hospital or who just want to help to bake something unique and get involved in raising some money.

“We treat patients from all over the UK and beyond so this will give people a chance to stay in contact with us and get involved from wherever they are.”

It could be a loaf that looks like an animal, a dozen multi-coloured doughnuts, a giant custard pie or a 20-tier cake – the competition is all about the creativity. Each baker to enter the ‘Great Global Bake-Off’ is in with a chance of winning the grand prize of £100. And if giant cakes weren’t enough, there’s also giant Monopoly.

Staff at Sheffield law firm DLA Piper have been preparing for a game of Monopoly that takes place across the city.

Sally Johnson, the company’s marketing manager, said: “It’s really good fun. It’s based on the Sheffield edition of Monopoly, which came out a few years ago and we have stations across the city in the same places that are in the Sheffield Monopoly game itself.

“The teams have to run from one point to another and the Fire and Police Museum even let us use their prison cell when the teams are told to ‘go to jail.”

Incarceration notwithstanding, the giant Monopoly is a much-anticipated event in the DLA Piper diary.

“People get really into it – some of them wear running shoes because the winner is the team to complete it in two hours with the most money,” said Sally.

“Cars aren’t allowed but people can use bikes and Stagecoach have given us free bus travel to the various spots in the city, which is a big help because it is very tiring.”

And at the heart of all this, of course, is the Children’s Hospital, but also a woman who’s determinedly on a mission – the Mistress Cutler herself.

“I’m running some events as well, I bought 80 tickets for the Full Monty and took a load of women to see it. We had supper at the Lyceum before hand and the cast joined us for drinks after the show. It was a lot of fun.”

The Mistress Cutler’s Challenge winners will be awarded with a prize at the Mistress Cutler’s Challenge Ball on September 20 this year.