2 years and 8 months after Nadine and I raised our first pounds for CHUF (Children’s Heart Unit Fund at the Freeman Hospital, Newcastle) we have past the £200,000 mark! Yes you read that right, £200,000!!! It is with this in mind that I feel it appropriate to scribble something down about our journey so far.
As many will be aware, the initial idea to raise money for CHUF came when we were sat in PICU (Paediatric Intensive Care Unit) watching our 16 week old son Sebastian cling onto life by a thread. As he slowly recovered and grew stronger we felt an overwhelming urge to thank people; his surgeon Mr Asif Hasan, the anaesthetist Dr Simon Haynes, his Cardiologist Dr Richard Kirk and every single nurse working their back sides off, in the hardest medical environment imaginable. The problem is these people ‘just’ see their work as normal…!!! There is also only so many times you can hug someone before they think you’re weird. When we heard about CHUF we both knew what to do and our journey began.
So how do you say thank you to those who saved your child’s life? We decided to dedicate our lives to raising money and awareness for CHUF and would set out with the huge task of raising £120,000. I always thought this would take at least 5 years, but believed in setting such a large target no one would doubt our ambition. We then came up with the name Seb4CHUF, as we thought people would be able to connect with the amazing story of Seb and feel more personally connected to our cause. What we were in no doubt of was that the real success of what we were going to do would rely on our ability to enthuse and inspire others to help us.
The first event we did was the Great North Run 2009, where we ran together in fancy dress outfits carrying collection buckets and raising a couple of hundred pounds. At the same event our great friends Michelle Wilkinson and Rachel Farrer also ran for CHUF and before knew it we’d passed the £1,000 mark (http://www.seb4chuf.org.uk/other-events-2009.html) .
Now not a great deal changed over the next 6 months or so as we started planning for our first Seb4CHUF C2C Challenge and our C2C Ball the following summer. We quickly became aware how many wonderful friends we had, as people started selling Ball tickets, finding raffle prizes and then some very crazy friends agreed to run the width of the Country with me and complete 5 Marathons in 5 days (http://www.seb4chuf.org.uk/C2C-2010.html)! We ended that first year of fundraising having raised the huge sum of £50,000 for CHUF.
I don’t want to bore you with every event of challenge that has taken place over the last couple of years as that would be like War & Peace, but I will pick out some of my personal highlights.
One of the things that consistently overwhelms us is when our friends decide to decline their birthday presents, instead asking for donations to be made to CHUF. Peter & Elaine Norgate, Jackie Snape, Terry Wall, Auntie Maggie, little James & Finn to name just a few. I must admit it makes me feel a tad guilty when I get so excited about the presents I’ll receive for my birthday (http://www.seb4chuf.org.uk/other-events.html).
What started out as a £500 bet for me to ski 10km down a mountain, ended up raising in excess of £1,300 and getting over 3500 hits on You Tube! I make no more comment about it, you can see for yourself (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=te9FNKWZlvc).
As we approach our 3rd C2C Challenge I am left almost speechless at how much money they have raised and how many people have been prepared to put themselves physically on the line for CHUF. In 2010 we raised £18,000 and then in 2011 that figure rose to the huge amount of £67,000; this year I think it is possible we may go over the £100,000 mark for the 3 day challenge. There are far too many people to possible mention here, but there are a couple of names that deserve to be specially recognised:
Andy Roberts, Ben Shephard, Steve Bilton, Russ Marks, Tom Beales, Chester Robinson, Paul Brennan, Simon Allen and our ever present support crew of Nadine, Dad, Sarah Jones, Peter Norgate and Gemma Pringle.
There are so many others who have joined us for various sections and will once again be a part of this year’s event, but I will save that for another blog.
These events are hugely stressful to organise and Nadine must take most of the credit for putting together one of the most amazing events to take place in the North East both in 2010 and 2011. I have no doubt this year will be even better and with a theme of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory I feel confident those of us who will be energy depleted from the previous 3 days C2C will find enough high calorie sweet things to feast on (http://www.seb4chuf.org.uk/Ball-2012.html) .
Both events that Nadine has organised have raised in excess of £30,000 and are a fantastic way of celebrating the C2C Challenge, telling everyone about the Heart Unit and CHUF, and having an opportunity to get dressed up and party.
It’s 8 weeks since I finished the hardest challenge of my life and I’ve had a lot of time to reflect on why I put myself through that much physical and emotional pain. I still find it difficult to put into words, so it’s probably best you just take a few minutes to watch the film of the run (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sa3N3Fvur2M) .
So who was responsible for taking us past £200,000? Honours go jointly to Steve Bilton and Emma Cardwell’s curry night at the Maharaja restaurant in Benfleet, and Sarah Jones and her fundraising events at Lloyds TSB Bank in Newcastle. It was fitting that an events such as these and friends like Steve, Emma and Sarah were responsible for taking us past this huge total; they represent everything that is good, honest and passionate about Seb4CHUF.
Finally I would like to say a HUGE THANK YOU to every single person who has contributed to this success. Whether you have run a Marathon, held a cake sale, organised a toddle or donated some of your hard earned money; you are all responsible and can take pride in making the dream that was created at the Seb’s bedside in PICU to become a very successful reality.
To donate: visit www.Justgiving.com/Seb4chuf or text ‘CHUF99’ and ‘£5’ or ‘£10’ to 70070.