David King is a Year 6 teacher and Director of Administration at Wyvern House, one of Newington College’s two prep schools. He has been at Newington College for five years. He recently organised the Adventure Film Festival held on our Stanmore campus. The evening served as a fundraiser for Have Bear Will Run (HBWR), a charity David founded in 2014. Below, he shares about how his teaching and charity work overlap.
Q: What do you enjoy most about teaching Year 6?
A: It is such a fast-paced year group! There is never a day where I don’t learn something new from the content we cover or the boys’ responses to it. At the ages of 11 and 12, they are evolving so rapidly. Their level of respect is always there, but their sense of humour continually surprises me.
Q: Are you involved in any Co-curricular offerings at Wyvern?
A: I have been lucky enough to work in the Basketball and Rugby programs for a couple of years now. Primarily, I look after the younger age groups, which is great fun. More recently, I have worked with some of the senior rugby squads, helping to develop their endurance psychology approach to competitive sport and life. It has long been a passion area for me as it aims to improve an athlete’s mindset and peak performance over an extended period of time.
Q: You recently organised a film festival on the Stanmore campus, which also served as a fundraiser for HBWR, a charity that you founded. Can you share more about the evening?
A: The evening itself was fantastic. It was a ‘dipping the toe in’ sort of event, as we have not held a film festival before. We watched some incredible short films, shared a few motivational stories and most importantly, raised valuable funds for our charity. My family and friends were terrific in their support of the night. World-renowned ultra-athlete and author, Tristan Miller, was an inspiring guest speaker. We hope the film festival will become an annual event. There are already plans for a gala ball, golf day, international adventure trek and more endurance events over the next 12 months to help support the charity.
Q: What inspired you to start the charity?
A: Have Bear Will Run originated from my time working as an Education Coordinator in Oncology at the Children’s Hospital, Westmead. It was one of the most meaningful and difficult times of my life. There were some amazing tales of courage and love, but also some challenging times as well. Working at the hospital didn’t seem enough, so I started running marathons throughout Australia to raise money – all while carrying a teddy bear on my back! Hence the name Have Bear Will Run. The bear and I have taken on adventures all over the globe in a bid to raise money for the Lucian Page Scholarship. This scholarship was set up to honour the memory of a little warrior friend who lost his battle to cancer. Lucian was an amazing bundle of energy who brightened the life of every person he met. He had a passion for all things Lego and was obsessed with garbage trucks! Lucian deserves for his name to live on and to have a legacy. With the money raised from these adventures, Lucian’s Scholarship provides an opportunity for cancer surviving students to show that same zest for life and follow their dreams into tertiary education.
Q: How long has the charity evolved over the years?
A: Have Bear Will Run is in its fifth year and thankfully, we continue to grow. We had 25 runners carrying our Bear Backpacks in this year’s City2Surf! Each year we raise money through various events and provide as many scholarships as we can. It’s incredible to see previous recipients go on to follow their dreams at University as nurses, zoologists, teachers and biomedical engineers. So far, we have given out over a dozen scholarships, and the plan is to keep helping more and more kids with continued friend-raising and fundraising.
Q: What makes you most proud?
A: It is hard to single out just one thing. It’s been such an emotional journey so far. I’m proud to be able to provide families with a small gesture of support and hope, in some of their darkest days. I’ve always been brought up to believe that if we can help, we should. Hearing the dreams and plans of the courageous kids we’ve worked with makes all the fundraising and hours of running worth it. We all deserve the right to follow our dreams and having cancer has certainly not stopped these kids from chasing theirs. More recently, some amazing parents and children have discovered the work we are trying to do and have been incredibly supportive. Opening up a new generation of students to the idea of selfless giving and supporting others in need is both humbling and inspiring. If we can motivate our kids to compassionately search for opportunities to help others – what a future we have!
Q: What has been the most challenging aspect of running HBWR?
A: Juggling work, training, a business and HBWR can be tough at times. But when we are passionate about things we love and hopefully, make a small difference, it supersedes the mounting challenges and fatigue. One of the most significant challenges though has been trying to share our story and convince people that supporting these kids is a worthwhile cause. I know how difficult it can be to make ends meet sometimes, so finding those few extra dollars for charity donations can be especially tricky.
The physical nature of the endurance running events has always been pretty gruelling. I’ve run 250km across Italy; 260km through the Sahara desert; 600km from London to Edinburgh and 800km along the Camino de Santiago in Spain. Each experience hurt and pushed me to places I didn’t think possible. But they pale in comparison to the hardship families and kids go through while battling cancer.
Q: Are other members of the Newington community involved with HBWR?
A: Some fantastic staff and parents have run with us and championed our cause over the years. I am forever grateful to them for giving up their time and spreading the word for us. We have some exceptionally knowledgeable and altruistic parents who have also guided me through the pitfalls of charity work and event planning. Even when people are unable to join in the running events, they are always willing to donate and help kids chase their dreams.
2019 is the first year we’ve had Newington students involved in the running events, and by all reports, they had a great time! I tried to keep up with a few of our runners during City2Surf, but they quickly took off into the distance, carrying their bear backpacks across the finish line. I am excited to involve more students and parents in the future to help them understand and enjoy the incredible power we have to help others.
Q: How does your charity work connect with your teaching and work with students?
A: Charity work has always been close to my heart. The compassion and patience you develop for others goes a long way towards building authentic connections with our boys and their parents. That sense of humility and service becomes ingrained and hopefully weaves its way into the very moral development of our boys. You have to love what you do, but more than that, I understand the long-lasting impact my role as a teacher and mentor can have. I consider myself exceptionally fortunate to work in such a remarkable school, with boys that are genuine characters and teachers that are nothing short of world-class. Our roles at Newington College are varied, but all equally important. My role is just a small piece in this elaborate puzzle, but for which I have tremendous gratitude.
Banner image courtesy of Have Bear Will Run.