Kiltwalk board member wanted to give back after daughter’s illness

Mark Harvey joined the board of the Kiltwalk this summer
Mark Harvey joined the board of the Kiltwalk this summer
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WHEN Mark Harvey’s four-year-old daughter Sophie was diagnosed with leukaemia, he said the help his family received from Yorkhill Children’s charity was “fantastic”.

When Sophie went into remission after two years of chemotherapy, Mr Harvey, a partner at Ernst & Young, wanted to support those who had supported him and his family when they needed it. And that’s where the Kiltwalk came into his life.

Kiltwalkers around Scotland help to raise millions for good causes, with children's charities to the fore. Picture: Alex Hewitt

Kiltwalkers around Scotland help to raise millions for good causes, with children's charities to the fore. Picture: Alex Hewitt

“I had been looking for something for a while, but I wanted it to be something which used the skills that I have as opposed to just something to get involved in as it would make me feel good.

“I thought I could bring more leverage by bringing the skill set I’ve got and therefore by sitting on the board of Kiltwalk, given the scale we want to be, giving the opportunity we’ve got to make this the biggest mass participation event in Scotland, there is complexity around it.”

It came after a troubling time for Kiltwalk, which came under fire earlier this year over concerns of its financial mismanagement, with some charities choosing to end their partnership with the organisation,

Its board members were all replaced and Mr Harvey was brought on to the team by Sean Tracey, who had also just been appointed as a new board member.

Mr Harvey added: “Our ambition is to produce the largest mass participation event in Scotland. It’s four walks – Glasgow, Edinburgh, Aberdeen and Speyside – and the key message is that, if you walk for charity every pound that you raise will go to charity, because of the backing of the Hunter Foundation.

“We are doing the walks six to eight weeks apart. It has already got a great following, it’s got a great brand, and we want to get all the walkers back out again, and some new people.

“I’ve been ‘guilted’ into doing the 26 mile walk and unfortunately one board member is a marathon runner so he just thinks walking 26 miles is easy.

“My whole family, including Sophie, will be getting involved in the Kiltwalk, which is great.

“Fundamentally, this is about raising money for Scottish children’s charities – whether they be large, national high-profile charities or smaller, local and in many cases personal causes. For example, at a recent meeting I heard the story of how Calum’s Cabin, a charity I learnt about when Sophie was in Yorkhill hospital, had benefitted from the 2014 Kiltwalk.

“Calum’s Cabin on the Isle of Bute is a holiday home that offers families of children suffering from life-limiting illnesses the opportunity to have a holiday together. They used their supporters and social media to attract more than 400 walkers to walk for their charity.

“For me, the opportunity to be part of the Kiltwalk board is my chance to say thankyou to the children’s charities that supported my family when we really needed it.

“But it’s also important to me that I contribute towards ensuring that the kind of help I got is always there for the families whose paths take the same route as mine. We can all make our own small differences to children’s lives and collectively these small differences make a huge impact.”

It’s not surprising that Mr Harvey wanted to become involved in a charity, considering the business he woks for. With EY, the biggest professional services firm in Scotland, he has travelled the globe. And last year, as part of the firm’s global purpose of building a better working world, the EY Foundation was launched.

Mr Harvey said: “It’s just the right thing to do.

“Like many organisations, we have done lots of things for charities. We’ve had corporate social responsibility programmes, lots of people in the organisation who have been attached to a cause or charity much in the same way I am. But there was a sense that we do a lot of things and if we pulled our resources together we could make a much bigger difference.

“Many young people suffer from a lack of fair and equal access to opportunities to spend quality time with local employers; this is most marked for young people from disadvantaged groups. So it is an area where we feel we can really make a difference. We want to focus on the parts of our cities, of our country, of our society that without intervention would mean they won’t get those same opportunities afforded to others. We’ve got limited resources and therefore as a foundation we want to put ours where we feel it would make the most difference.”