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Last night, I was announced as the winner of the Royal Manchester Children’s Hospital Many Hands award in recognition of last September’s Charity Bike Ride. Details of the ride itself can be found HERE

Getting recognition for your efforts is always welcome, but this was particularly emotive: The Charity and the Children’s Hospital as a whole are very close to my heart, and the support and team spirit were unlike I have ever seen before.

Never mind organising the ride, signing riders up, engaging dozens of business, gaining 100s of donations…and the small matter cycling 213 miles – arguably the biggest challenge was after the shortlisting. The 5 shortlisted Many-Handers had to perform a three minute pitch Dragon Den style, to the lead Dragon himself – Theo Paphitis along with Charity Chairman Maurice Watkins, Business Coach Nick Robinson, Business Desk Editor Chris Barry and Kath Martin from Montpellier Accountants as well as compare Gordon Burns and 130 guests. …and we were told to be original.
Original? I did it on my bike. In Lycra.

But it worked. I am as humbled by the outcome as I am by the enormous amount of support we got for the ride. But it was a team effort. The organisation, as well as the ride itself. I had a lot of support. The riders, all the businesses (see logo’s below), everyone that helped with the organisation (not least of which Paul Carruthers for the route planning) and everyone that donated getting us to the incredible total of over £14,000.  Thank you.

The 3 minute presentation:

It was all Laura Wolfe’s fault. It was a year ago tomorrow, after last year’s Many Hands launch event, she called me, at 6am, wanting make sure I was taking part. Now Laura was heavily pregnant at the time, and I’ve learnt not to upset women in her condition.

“Yes” I replied quickly.
“Great, what are you going to do?”
“Er……..I’ll organise a bike ride, we’ll get a few riders and ride from Manchester to….er….. Theo’s house?”
“Great!” she replied. “We’ll help”….and hung up.

6 hours later, after conversations with Jenny from the Charity, Tina from Ryman and a dozen or so contacts/clients, it was happening.  ….I had to try and find my bike – it hadn’t been touched since we moved house, 3 years earlier.

The ride ended up going from The Ryman store on the Strand to the Velodrome in Manchester, via the hospital.

2 days
213 miles
8547 feet of climbs
15,000 calories per rider.

And crucially, over £14,000 in fundraising.

I gained some colleagues help fairly easily, despite most admitting they hadn’t ridden for over 5 years, others took more persuasion. But they took part and ironically the ride probably ended up being a bigger team building exercise than anything the business had organised itself.

But I needed more. I needed to engage clients as riders, and sponsors!

I opened my Head-Hunter’s little black book and despite very few people having knowledge of the Hospital or the Charity, the support was fantastic. That education became a key part to our fundraising.

My contacts came good – 12 of the riders were clients/contacts, and we also got support from over 20 businesses giving food, transport, accommodation, stationary and general support.

That done, we had to spread the word for sponsorship and physical support. I had 5000 hits on the bike ride website, 300 separate donations and over 500 messages of support – all noting the strength and validity of the Charity as a cause to support.

We engaged social marketing, especially Twitter. Tweets went viral and were mentioned and re-tweeted over 1000 times, including by celebrities and other notable individuals such as Bradley Wiggins and Lance Armstrong. This elicited donations from around the world as people heard about the event and crucially, the charity.

One of the biggest wins of the social media exercise was through one of our supports, the infamous ‘Slick Skin’ anti-chaffing product (a product every single rider became very passionate about….it protected our ‘assets’ – literally). Having seen all the tweets about the ride, Help for Heroes picked up on the product and discovered it was perfect for amputees returning from Afghanistan – they now supply it by the truck load.

Looking back there were many achievements. Riding 213 miles (and 130 on the first day) was immense. Of course the total raised was a great achievement but probably the most important – it brought together a group of like-minded, motivated individuals, working as an immensely effective yet highly selfless team – focussed on just one thing, the delivery of an ambitious project to benefit the Royal Manchester Children’s hospital.

The positive spirit was incredible and drove every single rider mile after mile.

I believe every aspect of the ride perfectly embodies what the Many Hands appeal stands for. An idea from one person, engaging 25 riders, 100s of supporters, all to the benefit of 1000s of Children.