Tuesday, 18 December 2012

Fundraising: For Whom and Why

Hi there, one and all – hope you’re doing well in the build-up to Christmas. A build-up to which I can now turn, since we are now closer to Christmas than my birthday… but if you weren’t born in December you won’t understand that.

I feel I ought to spend a little time explaining why I’ve decided to fundraise for The Children’s Hospital Charity – that being the Children’s Hospital in Sheffield, by the way. Back on May 4, I explained that I didn’t feel comfortable asking for money for running a 10k, at the time the sole race for which I’d signed up. I acknowledged I might pass the collection tray around for a half marathon, promptly clarifying that I was
delighted to confirm that the concept of aiming for a full Marathon has not entered, and never will, my brain. Seriously!”. And it had not. But May was a long time ago… 986 miles ago…

…and since then I have run a Half Marathon. And sure, ahead of that I did contemplate fundraising. Often. On June 11 I added:

“And, further to my post on May 4, I probably won’t be fundraising: 23/09/12 is about me, matters a huge deal to me and I don’t want the added pressure of raising cash. Ask me again on September 24. Providing I’ve got my breath back, I’ll answer. What I won’t tell you is what the previous day has done for the idea at the very back of my mind about entering the 2013 Sheffield Half Marathon, though I do hope they will have announced the date by then… not that I’ve enquired as to when they might make that announcement or owt like that, you understand.”

Of course I had. I hadn’t given any thought to running the Bristol Half, mind. It was to take place a mere week after the 10k – how would I know I was ready? Well, in the end running 18km in training for a 10k race convinced me I could run a 21k half… but you know that already. Just like you know I didn’t go down the charity route. Those races, and indeed 2012, were about me, about me getting back into shape and discovering a form, both physical and mental, in which I cannot ever recall being previously. But the end of 2012 is now only a fortnight away: and in 2013 I plan, I will, give something back. Which is why I
’m running the Greater Manchester Marathon*!

This leads us to The Children’s Hospital Charity. As I start asking people for money, I need to explain why I’ve chosen them ahead of, say, the Epilepsy Society or indeed Springboard Opportunity Group, which I was considering as far back as May. So here goes.

Quite simply, I wouldn’t be here without the Children’s Hospital in Sheffield. As I told them at the end of August, when I told them I’d be raising funds for them:

“All the best in your work - I owe my life to treatment at the Hallamshire Hospital back in 1977. That's why I'll do my best in fundraising for the Sheffield Half Marathon and in actually running it.”

That’s right. Aged eighteen months, whilst in Sheffield I ended up in a coma, brought on by my first (and worst) epileptic seizure. I was in Sheffield because my Mum was heavily pregnant with my younger brother and had headed back there from Italy for the delivery. That was no romantic ideal: she had no issues with giving birth in Italy. Or at least she hadn’t until her pregnancy with my older brother. That went wrong and ended up in a miscarriage. Touched by motherly instinct even before the birth, my Mum kept telling the doctor that something was wrong, but he ignored her concerns and maintained all was fine. It obviously wasn’t. Coming in to see her shortly after, the doctor offered to resign. My Mum calmly told him that that would be pointless, that it wouldn’t change anything and to just make sure he didn’t make the same mistake again. But that is the reason that, when pregnant with me, she headed to Sheffield. That is the reason I’m a Brit, an Englishman, a Yorkshireman and, most importantly, a Sheffielder. Maybe it’s the reason I’m so passionate about being those things, who knows.

Where were we… yes, the Children’s Hospital. I was in there while Mum was in Jessop’s Hospital, where I’d popped out in December 1975. Sadly, eighteen months later my Mum’s whereabouts would make no difference: my younger brother died shortly after coming into this world. If you’ve ever asked me whether I have siblings, my answer won’t have been a simple “no”. I don’t feel that way: I feel I carry my two brothers in my heart, that I am not alone. As I wrote after the TenTenTen, when the end was in sight and I started to tire I “felt my brothers lift me and carry me on as I made my way down the woods”.                          

Picture that, if you will: my Mum was in one hospital grieving a second delivery gone wrong while I was in another hospital, in the same city, in a coma. Eighteen months old, I was in that coma for six weeks before the guys and girls at the Children’s Hospital brought me back. That, in a nutshell, is why I’m running the Greater Manchester Marathon for them.

On a broader note, I am convinced those events shaped my ties with Sheffield. Many people don’t understand my passionate love for my hometown, given I grew up a thousand miles south in Italy. And I don’t blame them: it’s not logical. But it is true and genuine. Granted, aged 22 I left Sheffield again, this time of my own volition, heading South and later West as I landed in Portishead thirteen years ago. That’s a whole other story… one I touched upon back in June, after spending ten hours wandering around its homely streets. For now, all you need to retain is that, to this day, I feel I owe my life to Sheffield and to the Children’s Hospital; that I still recall visiting a cousin of mine who’d been born prematurely as she fluttered along the line separating her life’s beginning and end before pulling through with a strength that continues to serve her in good stead to this very day; that I feel I have a debt to the Children’s Hospital I will never fully repay, although I must try.

This won’t be the first time I fundraise for them. In the mid-80’s I did a sponsored swim, ably assisted by Uncle Richard. I seem to recall raising £31… what I don’t recall is any real discussion about whom I should fundraise for. I was a Sheffield lad, in Sheffield at the time, so I’d be raising funds for the Children’s Hospital. I got a lovely letter back from them, an’all. Hopefully I’ll do better than £31 this time.

Don’t get me wrong, Springboard was a genuine and worthy contender. Karen has quietly but strongly canvassed for it and the plan is to ask our local friends for cash for Springboard rather than online donations for The Children’s Hospital Charity. I am even contemplating making a donation myself at the end of this journey to recognise Karen’s patience with it all. And of course I am grateful for the support they have given and continue to provide Daniel as he continues to progress with his speech along the road to catching up with his age peers. Rationally, I should be raising funds for them and/or maybe the Epilepsy Society, what with me having had epilepsy surgery and all that. But… ultimately this was not a rational decision. It was a gut decision. And my gut still has that umbilical cord-like link to the Children’s Hospital. As I strive to put one foot in front of the other in a slightly exaggerated fashion, it’s the Children’s Hospital Charity that comes to mind. It’s my chance to give something back to recognise I’m still here, I’m still alive. And that, my friends, is why I’m after your money…

…so why not go to www.justgiving.com/gos75 or text GOSQ75 and a sterling monetary value (e.g., if you want to donate a fiver, GOSQ75 £5) to 70070. I could really do with your help. Because it’s more than about the money: it’s about being out there, training, at 5:40 on a December morning knowing that there are friends around me supporting me in my quest to run the Greater Manchester Marathon.

“What’s he going on about? He’s lost four stone… he’s already run a half… he’s running fifty miles a week… where’s the challenge? This is easy for him – I’m not going to sponsor him, it’s going to be a doddle”.

Trust me – it’s not. Yes, training is going well and yes, I’m feeling good. But running 42.195km or 26.22mi will not be easy. Running 21.975km or 13.11mi in Bath and then Sheffield won’t easy, for that matter. Because let me tell you, during the final mile of the Bristol Half I made myself promise I’d never do anything like it again. The verbatim words were along the lines of “Don’t tha even f*****g think abaat it, Squintaani!”, but that's probably more detail than you need. It often is, with me.

So, if you think it will be a doddle to run a marathon, do join me. Manchester, 28/04/2013. If you realise it won’t… well go on, get out that credit card!

Right, best knock this one on the head. Getting up at 5:05 in the morning. I
’ve got a 21.5km training run planned. That’s a half marathon, basically. Fancy joining me?

* yes, well spotted – in August I was planning on asking for money to run the Sheffield Half. I’ve since upgrade to the Greater Manchester Marathon - thats an upgrade in terms of distance, not geography, you understand! ‘Doh! But don’t worry, I’m still running Sheffield, if my legs can cope with it just two weeks after finding themselves on the wrong side o’t Pennines… and the Bath Half on March 3, for that matter..! Am I sure they took out the right piece of brain thirteen months ago? No!

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