Join Blossom at the Great East Run or Great East Swim by visiting Greatrun.org/East and Greatswim.org/East

On International Women's Day, a day to celebrate appreciation towards women for economic, political and social achievements, a Suffolk charity that helps ladies change their lives is showing that it's never too late to follow your dreams.

The Blossom Charity, an organisation aimed at helping women be the best they can be in life, are making their mark this year by encouraging them to take part in mass participation events to improve their confidence and self esteem.

Blossom helps women across East Anglia to make a positive contribution to their lives through workshops, one to one coaching sessions and physical activity.

Many of the women they work with have been isolated, poverty stricken or suffered from mental health issues and have lacked the confidence to make change in their lives.

Now as part of their programme, they will encourage women to take on a physical and emotional challenge on Sunday 24 September at the region's newest running event, the Great East Run.

The Blossom Charity has become the inaugural event's local nominated charity partner, in their bid to improve women's lives through fitness and body confidence.

“We coach and work with women from all backgrounds because I believe that everyone has talent and can be encouraged to be the best they can be through support,” said founder Bridget McIntyre.

“We've worked with 100 women in the area this year who have received intensive support and this is resourced by fundraising.

“We encourage those who benefit from the charity to fundraise to support us but also to take on a challenge that brings them excitement, a sense of achievement and something that makes them focus on the things they can do.”

One of the group who has benefitted from the Blossom Charity's work is 25-year-old Clemmy Ardley-Forder.

Clemmy, from Diss in Suffolk, sought help from Blossom in 2012 after her father Neil passed away.

After his death she felt lonely with no confidence. After taking part in group classes and one to one coaching sessions, Clemmy was encouraged to take on course in sports therapy and now runs her own business as a fully qualified sports massage therapist.

“Before I went through the coaching sessions that the Blossom Charity offered me, I buried my head in the sand. I felt extremely low after my Dad died and constantly felt angry with myself and others,” she said. “The Blossom Charity made me a happier person and after I discovered a passion for sports therapy, they encouraged me to pursue my dream of running my own business.

“The atmosphere was so comfortable that I felt I'd made a new friendship group. I decided to take on the Great East Swim last year with Blossom and I enjoyed it so much that I have signed up again, as well as the Great East Run.”

Kate Scott, 59, and her daughter Hannah, 29, also saw their lives transformed through Blossom after the charity helped Hannah deal with depression.

Kate, from Debenham, said: “I decided to support the charity at the Great East Run because Blossom transformed Hannah's life.

“The course helped Hannah to open her eyes and see what changes she needed to make in her life to be happy again and it gave her the confidence to start.

“I have signed up to the event with friends to give something back to this amazing charity and we are all excited about having a Great Run on our doorstep in Suffolk.”

Blossom's tailored, six month programmes involve coaching sessions in groups and one-to-one classes that support women in enterprise, providing them with assistance in setting up a new business or in ongoing challenges. Workshops are led by Louise Hammond, from Debenham.

Louise took part in the very first Ipswich Half Marathon and 35 years on will join thousands at the Great East Run in Ipswich, with her Blossom family.

She said: “The joy in leading the programmes is seeing ladies take small steps and creating a big change in their lives. Sometimes the attendees have no confidence, are struggling to find work or have health problems.

“Events like the Great East Run improve their confidence and wellbeing.

“All women have hang-ups but we're huge believers that doing something together and tackling a challenge, physical or personal, can bring you inner happiness and fulfillment.”

The Blossom Charity began by expanding the fundraising into the Great East Swim, Suffolk's biggest open water swimming event, which was championed by Bridget who took part in the event herself.

One of the outcomes was to bring fitness and body confidence into the work that Blossom does.

Jessica Bell, from Hintlesham, contacted Blossom for advice on setting up her own business as a swimming teacher.

Now she is a key motivator in getting women to support the charity through events like the Great East Swim.

“I came across the charity while looking for help to set up by own business teaching the Shaw method in swimming, a technique that is all about body awareness and confidence in the water, as well as enjoying the experience,” she said.

“I took up swimming after going through emergency back surgery and decided I wanted to turn this into a teaching career.

“Blossom were incredibly helpful in providing me with support and entrepreneurial skills so I decided to help out by giving some of their ladies swimming lessons.

“I have taken part in the swim twice and will be doing it again this year as it's a fantastic way to get women to push themselves during an amazing swimming experience.”

Blossom's fundraising at the 2017 Great East Swim on Saturday 17 June at Alton Water and its sister running event, the Great East Run that takes place in September, will be a result of getting women to challenge themselves and to start something they never knew was possible.

The partnership between the Blossom Charity and the two events is championed by Suffolk County Council in their aim to become the most active county in England.

Chief Executive of Suffolk County Council, Deborah Cadman said: “Currently more men than women take part in some form of physical activity - The Great East Run, with its support of Suffolk charity Blossom, aims to help reverse this statistic. With so many health and wellbeing benefits linked to physical activity it is important more women, of all ages and abilities, get involved in some form of physical activity.

“The popular and ambitious campaign ‘This Girl Can' demonstrates that any woman from any background and of any age can, and should, get involved in sport. Working towards participating in the Great East Run will enable women to, first and foremost, increase their fitness, as well as their health and wellbeing so, women - let's do it!

“Suffolk is still aspirational and is working towards becoming the Most Active County and improving the health and wellbeing of all of our residents so we are encouraging everyone, male or female, to be more active.”

Join Blossom at the Great East Run or Great East Swim by visiting Greatrun.org/East and Greatswim.org/East