What do a group of enthusiastic mums, an amputee cyclist, and an able bodied guy in a wheelchair have in common? While this might sound like the start of a very bad joke, it is actually the start of a very inspiring story documenting the changing faces of fundraising. Long gone are the days when we would sign a form and sponsor someone 10p to stay silent for the day, or go a month without washing their hair. Raising money for good causes has become sophisticated, streamlined and media heavy. This winning combination, plus 10’s of 1000’s of enthusiastic supporters worldwide, have turned fundraising into big business for those in need.
I have been known to say that I would sit naked in a department store window to raise money for the charities I support, but it seems I am rather behind the times, and fear I would have to pay compensation to the innocent bystanders traumatised by my stunt. If you want to be on trend with your method of charity support this year, it seems that in your mint floral jeggings and fluorescent pug embossed top, you need to get marching, swimming or running, from lands end to John O Groats.
The first I heard of this wacky concept was from the wonderful Team Honk, the brainchild of Annie Spratt, Tanya Barrow and Emma Freud, was on the blogosphere. Arguably one of the loudest voices shouting at the top of it’s lungs in a web full of content begging for your attention, the blog-vine has proved to be an unstoppable force in stirring the waters of the web. Big on social media, and passionate about their content, bloggers were perhaps the best choice in demographic for getting the masses behind a fantastic concept and recruiting a group of bloggers willing to do just about anything to help raise money for sports relief.Except maybe sit naked in a department store window. That would just be silly.
One solitary tweet back in 2012 spawned one of the most feel good and inclusive fundraising effort I have seen in a long time. 2014 was the year that launched 100’s of bloggers of all interests and walks of life into action for one common goal, raising money for Comic and Sport relief. Everyone involved agreed that the range of causes supported by these charities were worthwhile and something the participants could get behind. While some people have a niche charity that is important to them, and others have no real charity that they feel an affinity for, Comic Relief covers everything from domestic violence projects, to flood relief, to work with children with learning difficulties and beyond, and was the natural choice to unite those who took part, and those who were inspired to donate.
With a fervour and enthusiasm that can only be matched by that of the people involved in making Teak Honk happen, the project took on a life of its own. 10k was raised in the planning stages alone. The Sports Relief people saw something great in Team Honk, and treated them as ‘experts of their blogs and audience’. It was that faith coupled with the Teams drive that made 2014 the year that bloggers totally smashed preconceptions, and any predicted donations raising £38.1K in 10 weeks. During this time, bloggers all over the country made history and passed the Teak Honk baton safely from hand to hand all the way from Lands End to John O Groats. Though the physical challenge is over, you can still donate and read more about the Team Honk initiative here.
But it doesn’t stop there, and seems that a wave of similar projects has been inspired by their untenable efforts. I have had the opportunity to take with Kevin Brennan, my theoretical Amputee cyclist. Though the amputation of part of his leg at age 18 may make Kevin unique in some ways, he has been far from disabled by this turn in his life. Initially finding hope hard to find, he embraced the changes in his life and in his body, and used them to his advantage. With courage and determination he overcame the hurdles that were in front of him. Inspired by the hard work and dedication of the Paralympians in 2012, Kevin has trained to the peak of his fitness, and tomorrow May 23rd he will embark on a bike ride across the length of the country, raising funds for Help For Heroes and BLESMA (British Limbless Ex-Serviceman’s Association). You can read more about Kevin here and donate here.
Conversely in Stuart Willams, another fundraising crusader I have been lucky enough to meet and speak with, I found an able bodied man taking on the Lands End to John O Groats challenge in a wheelchair. As a wheelchair user myself, I can safely say this won’t be easy, but with Stuarts background of study in High Performance Sport, he has had more than a passing opportunity to take a wheelchair for a spin. During his studies in New Zealand, Stuart was invited by a classmate to take part in a game of wheelchair basketball. He was shocked to find that despite a very athletic build and high level of fitness, using a wheelchair called on a completely different set of skills, and muscles! On that self same basketball court, he came across a young lad in training. Stuart says ‘he was no older than 13. he had recently been injured in a motorcross competition and was told he could never walk again’. The boy had found out just what Stuart had. That the wheelchair was big and heavy and he could not use it, but he couldn’t get up and walk away. This is when the idea was born, and Stuart made the first moves in arranging his wheelchair journey across the length of the country, to support Whizz Kids, a charity that helps those such as the young boy he met on the court that day to get the equipment that they need to live a fuller and fitter life. Stuart is starting his journey this June 2014.
So before I pass you my sponsor form to support my efforts to plow through as much cake as possible in an effort of philanthropy and…love of cake, I urge you to read, tweet, text and talk. Whatever it is you do to get the word out about totally awesome things, please keep doing that, for the sake of these totally awesome things. Or why not get involved? Fundraising is getting exciting, and I believe this fantastic and worthwhile trend is going to continue. I for one can’t wait to see where it takes us, and the great causes that benefit from the huge imaginations and even bigger hearts of those taking part.