Our Advocate, Jacqueline Didsbury, lives in Scotland. She organised a sponsored walk, raising over £26,000 for LLGL. We chatted to her about this phenomenal achievement and asked her how she did it.
What made you want to do this?
I had a double lung transplant and am so grateful for this gift of life. However, I am well aware that many people are not so lucky and, due to the chronic shortage of organ donors, they may never get a second chance. I therefore wanted to raise money for a transplant charity with the hope of helping others in my situation. I especially wanted the fundraiser to be a physical challenge to show how much this transplant has changed my life and the difference it can make.
When did you start your planning?
I started planning about eight months before the event. This was when I had the idea but I didn’t want the walk to take place until the spring, when I hoped the weather would be better.
How did you envisage this event when you started out?
I thought it would be a 10-mile sponsored walk – with myself and a few family members; possibly a group of around 15 people.
At what point did you realise it was turning into something really quite big?
After a couple of months I realised this event was going to be much bigger than I had expected - with around 60 people. A few months later I realised it was actually turning into a huge event - with 170 participants!
Could you describe some of the practicalities you had to take into account?
Firstly I had to choose a route to walk. I also had to take into account the time needed to travel to the start point, whether there was parking available and if we would even be allowed to have 160 people walking on this route (it’s important to contact farmers/landowners out of courtesy – and to check that there wouldn’t be bulls in any fields etc!). I then had to look at the actual walk itself and make sure it was safe, ie not too arduous but challenging enough. Were there toilet facilities en route? Where could people stop for lunch, especially if the weather was poor? How would people get back to their cars at the end of the walk (I arranged buses for this purpose)? I also had to assess safety on the walk – checking details with the local rangers for that area, contacting the council to check we could use the route and also alerting the police due to the number of people.
Did you get sponsorship? If so, how and what for?
I was sponsored by friends, family and workmates. The other members of the team were also sponsored individually. I received sponsorship from a company to provide the team with caps to wear on the day, and was given a supply of biscuits from Tunnocks and bottles of water from a local shop. The use of the buses on the day was also free of charge.
Did you find people wanted to help?
Yes, people did want to help with organising beforehand, helping on the day and also taking part in the walk. I had people volunteering as first aiders, to take the register, hand out caps, walk the route in advance to provide written directions and also provide transport to people.
Your team went over the £20,000 mark. What do you think helped you in your bids for sponsorship?
I think sponsorship was high because so many people were taking part, and they all felt moved by the success story of my transplant. The local Press covered my story and that helped raise awareness. I also wrote to several MP’s, including Gordon Brown, and received some sponsorship which increased the profile of the walk. People I didn’t even know sent donations as they had been either moved by my story or had a connection with Cystic Fibrosis or organ transplants in general. I also spoke at my local parish church about my life and about transplant and had a great deal of donations through this.
In your opinion, what were the key strengths of the day?
I think the sheer number of people walking; everyone turning up and all the planning working out. It was amazing.
Were there any last minute panics?
Yes! Some people couldn’t make it at the last minute and I had to ensure that everyone was on the bus and accounted for. However, generally it all went smoothly.
What would you do differently?
I would perhaps ask the people taking part to make a small donation to cover extra costs – such as the fact I supplied first aid kits to all teams. I kept in touch with team members via email but would maybe set up a website if I did it again – so that people could just check in for the latest updates, access sponsor forms and find details of the event etc. Some of my emails were being filtered as spam which meant that not everyone was receiving updates.
What are your key tips for someone thinking about organising an event like this?
Start early! Have a very clear plan – and have this written down. If a large number of people are taking part, make sure you have everyone’s name and contact details plus a way of updating everyone on any changes. Ask local businesses to help if possible – for example we had buses donated for free and a pub along the route allowed us to use a room for eating our lunch and using toilets. Don’t incur costs yourself – for example, if you have to hire buses get team members to pay a small amount for a place on the bus.
Any other words of wisdom?!
Accept help from people – don’t try to do everything yourself! Allow yourself plenty of time and brainstorm ideas with others – it’s amazing what they come up with! Above all, enjoy yourself!