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Initiatives that make a difference

15 years and still ‘toddling’ strong...


The Barnardo’s Big Toddle has been inspiring under 5’s to support children less fortunate for more than 15 years… We talk to Charlotte Cooper, Barnardo’s Toddle Manager, about why this event has been such a long-lived success. She also gives us a sneak peak at what lies in store for the ‘toddle’s’ future, including exciting digital plans and opportunities for potential new sponsors…


The first Big Toddle was held by Barnardo’s in 1997. It started as a small-scale idea dreamt up by a team of volunteers for the charity, based in Wales. Soon enough staff at Barnardo’s Barkingside Head Office heard about it. They loved the concept, saw how much children enjoyed it, and the event has been going strong ever since, growing to be one of the country’s most popular mass participant fundraising initiatives for young children.

Last year alone, over 100,000 UK little people took part in Big Toddle events all over the country, raising a staggering £700,000 between them. This averages at around £7.00 raised per child.

This hugely appreciated fundraising boost helps Barnardo’s transform the lives of the most vulnerable UK children facing a range of challenges from abuse and neglect, to disability or caring for an ill loved one. Last year, our 900 services worked with over 200,000 children and young people.

What is the Big Toddle?

The concept is simple. Each year, Barnardo’s sets a theme for the festivities (last year was space, this year pirates) and little ones at nurseries, schools and community groups don fancy dress in line with the theme and ‘toddle’ (aka walk at a leisurely pace) together for sponsorship. There is a group of around 1,000 incredible nurseries who have been holding their own Big Toddle event year after year.

Charlotte said: “I think people love it because it helps vulnerable children and at the same time it is fun for the people who are taking part.

“It’s a great way for parents to teach their little ones about the importance of helping others and doing something nice for children who are less fortunate than they are.”

In addition to the independently-run Big Toddle events all over the country, every summer Barnardo’s holds some bigger events for anyone who wishes to register and attend. They take place in fun, inspiring venues that kids and parents alike love to frequent including zoos in Dudley, Chester and Blackpool. An added bonus of attending the public Big Toddles is that participants might be lucky enough to catch a glimpse of ‘Big Todd’, the event’s rather distinctive mascot (pictured).


‘Is he a blackberry, or a blueberry’, people often ask of when seeing Todd’s rather purple and rotund appearance.

“We get that a lot” Charlotte says, laughing, “he was actually designed over five years ago to be part of the lettering of our old Big Toddle logo and branding, but children absolutely love him and so he has of course stayed.”

How does it work?

Big Toddlers can take on any distance they like, depending on their age and ability. Many parents take part while pushing very young children in prams, and Toddles are inclusive of everyone. Charlotte says many of the events are half a mile long, but the distance does not matter too much as ‘it’s the taking part and having fun that counts’.

She added: “It’s so much fun, and it’s really social too because the kids get together and so do the parents too, often in lovely settings like local parks in the sunshine.”

Celebrity supporters of the Barnardo’s Big Toddle include The Walking Dead’s Andrew Lincoln, Jools Oliver, Holby City’s Tina Hobley and Nina Wadia, of Eastenders fame. These high-profile devotees of the concept have helped spread the word about the fundraiser, helping it to maintain an edge in an increasingly competitive market.

The future…

Securing success for the future of the Big Toddle involves in part, making the most of digital opportunities. The team has already made a great start, with the recent relaunch of the campaign’s digital elements. This includes an all singing all dancing new microsite, created by in-house talent. This has improved user experience for everyone registering and taking part.

Other plans for the future include an ‘eye patch selfie’ social media campaign in the pipeline for this summer, to complement the pirate theme of 2015 events. There are also opportunities for businesses to partner with the event, which not only benefits Barnardo’s and the thousands of children we support each year, but is also a fantastic opportunity for positive exposure for corporates. Past corporate partners include household names Timberland, Lloyds TSB, and Fairy, among others. These businesses have been a huge part of Big Toddle’s success today.

Charlotte added: “People can obviously hold their own Big Toddle events to support Barnardo’s whenever they like, all year round, we will always encourage that. But this year, for the first year ever, from June 1 to 12 we are having a fortnight of concentrated Big Toddle activity, when most of the events will happen.

“We are so excited about it all!”

To find out more about the Barnardo’s Big Toddle, please visit

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