We know that the prospect of fundraising might not be met enthusiastically by everyone. It’s hard work and you have to ask people for financial support – so can fundraising ever become fun? Cynthia, parent of young magician Cat, talks about how fundraising for her daughter has truly empowered her. By simply keeping at it and asking the right questions, she turned into a fundraising specialist and shares her truly inspiring story with us.
“A few years ago we became aware of Breathe Magic and the positive outcomes other families had experienced. However, we had also heard that there was a cost involved and therefore thought that the programme was outside of our reach. It wasn’t until last year that we found out through the Hemichat Facebook Group that Breathe also offers taster sessions for interested families to get an insight in to the programme before signing up. We knew that our daughter Catherine (she prefers to be called Cat), was reaching the end of the age range for eligibility and decided that it would be interesting to give it a go.
On 28 November 2015 Cat and I set our sat nav to Walsall, Birmingham to see what the magic was all about. It’s not really on our doorstep as such, but isn’t the other end of the world either.
I was so glad to find that all the people we met on the day were lovely. First, we met Gillian Hayes from Hemichat who had worked with Breathe to set up the taster day. We also met other parents and their children, some of whom we had corresponded with over Facebook and it was good to put faces to these conversations. The Breathe Magic staff were very welcoming and the session started quickly. After an initial introduction by one of the magicians, the parents were taken to the side and were given the chance to find out more about Breathe Magic and to share our experiences of Occupational Therapy as provided by our local NHS. We also got chance to talk about some of the worries which we held about how our children would cope in life as they grew older. For example, issues such as showering and personal care were important for those of us with teenagers or pre-teens. It was a reassuring experience so I filled in an Expression of Interest form (click to find the form as a PDF document).
In late January, I decided to bite the bullet and opened up a Go Fund Me pageand started by sharing it to Facebook. After only a short while I was amazed that friends started to donate. But I still felt somehow uncomfortable asking people for money, especially because they weren’t receiving anything in return.
My friend Kelly Hatton, who has done a lot of fundraising for various charities, asked me if I would mind if she also got involved. Her forte is stitching so she decided to stitch a bookmark and a beautiful blanket with camper vans, rainbows and the word ‘Love.’ All of this got put towards a raffle and I’m so happy to say that ‘The Camper-Van Blanket’ as it has become known has recently raised £150.
The Camper Van Blanket
It was after Kelly’s intervention, that I decided that I also wanted to do more for the fundraiser. I was not as good at stitching as Kelly so I looked at what else I might be able to do. I like cooking and in the past have made fudge and toffee as presents. So that became the plan: I would make fudge and toffee and sell it to people. Who? I hadn’t quite decided yet…
I started off by designing some labels for the treats because I knew that the ingredients needed to be visible for people. I made an information page which explained why I was doing the sale. I bought (and was kindly given) some cellophane bags for the sweets and thought I was on my way. But I hadn’t thought of price lists! So I made those as well and then started roping people in to help me sell the toffee.
Initially, Catherine and Daniel sold them at their schools and both the fudge and toffee went down a storm, with very positive feedback from the purchasers! I then branched out, selling to work colleagues and they suggested that I should try introducing other flavours, too. So, I added peanut butter to the mix!
I’ve also sold to friends at Slimming World (hush, but don’t tell the consultants). They promised that they were for friends and not for own consumption, so I don’t feel too bad!
Table at the Cynthia’s First Fair
Another friend suggested that I perhaps try some of the local fairs, where I took a table and sold my wares. The first fair was aimed at raising awareness (and funds) for Autism Awareness. I couldn’t believe that I managed to come away with £45 from a mere 2 hours work (although admittedly I didn’t count the preparation and cooking time!) My next foray into fairs was at a Girl Guide fundraiser, which raised a whopping £55 and on top I met a lot of people who were both supportive and interesting. It didn’t feel like a chore!
At the reception of the building I work in I had often seen that they take part in fundraisers for the likes of MacMillan coffee morning and Age Concern. The main receptionist is also the mum of one of my son’s friends, so I felt I had nothing to lose and asked them whether they would mind me selling there as well. They were initially concerned about Food Hygiene certification etc., but after I contacted the Food Standards Agency and asking their advice, were more than happy for me to go ahead. Word of advice for anybody who wants to do something similar: I was told that there is generally no need for Food Hygiene Certificates, as it is covered by the same kind of criteria as School Fairs or Cake Bakes. But obviously you can’t use ingredients which are not acceptable and basic hygiene such as hot soapy water, hand washing, that general kind of thing are a must.
My recent event was a school fair at the primary school which both my children attended. I asked if I could do the face-painting for them. They agreed and said that some other mums would be helping out as well. My friend Kelly also held a raffle for various cuddlies which her children had outgrown, selling raffle tickets for the Camper-Van Blanket and also my ubiquitous fudge. By now, I’ve added more flavours still: Vanilla, Peanut Butter, Chocolate (Nutella), and Irish Meadow (a sort of Baileys substitute). At first, most people say that they don’t like Baileys but when they try one of the samples they usually go on to buy a couple of packets!
We’ve got very close to our target and although it has been a constant companion for the last five months, I know that Catherine will get so much out of this journey.”