A day in the life of a community fundraiser

Did you know it costs approximately £8.5m a year to keep our service operational?

Raising this amount of money is a huge task, and we’re incredibly grateful for the thousands of people who have donated and fundraised through a wide range of means to help fund our service over the years.

These people are supported by our charity services staff who work behind the scenes to coordinate, administrate, and encourage fundraising activity. 

An integral part of this team is our community fundraisers, who help to ensure that when the emergency phone rings, our critical care team are able to continue responding to those in need.

Mieke Tennant has been a community fundraiser at GNAAS since November 2021 and works in Cumbria.

In her ‘day in the life’ diary she gives an insight into what a busy day out in the community looks like.

8.30am: Today I’m out with Deborah, who recently started as a community fundraiser in Cumbria. We set off from our Langwathby airbase and my van is our office for the day. With a variety of jobs to do, I make sure that everything we need is in the van. I quickly check emails and messages on my phone to make sure we can stick to our planned route and visits, and we’re away to our first engagement.

10am: Deborah delivers a talk to children of a rural primary school, telling them about our charity and how they can help. When Deborah asks how many of them know about GNAAS almost all hands go up. The school is in an area where most people are aware of the life-saving difference GNAAS can make, and more often than not they know someone who has used our service. Children and teachers have clearly prepared for our visit and fire off lots of interesting questions. Our mascot Miles the Bear is welcomed with loud cheers and happy high fives.

11.00am: We meet Sue and Ron Godfrey, our wonderful volunteers in the South-West of Cumbria. We discuss upcoming local events, as well as their exciting fundraising plans! They update us on the supporters they’ve visited to service our green collection boxes. Just in Cumbria, we have nearly 1000 boxes in shops and various community places. They not only provide a steady income, but also help raise awareness for our charity. Our volunteers play a vital role in making sure the boxes are emptied regularly.

GNAAS is always looking to expand the volunteer ground crew with people who are willing to donate that most precious of commodities: time. Apart from being part of a team that contributes to a life-saving service, the attraction of volunteering for GNAAS is that you can choose what you want to do in however much or little time you have spare.

12.30pm: On our way to our next appointment, we decide to stop for lunch at Hartside Pass. All plans for a bench picnic are abandoned after a shivering photoshoot. With frozen toes and fingers, we have our lunch in the van, admiring the snowy views. You can’t help but think that especially in a remote area like this, so many stories would have had a different outcome if it hadn’t been for our amazing critical care team.

1.30pm: One of those stories is about Julia. She greets us in Grisedale Croft in Alston, where she, together with colleagues and residents, raised generous funds with a pub quiz and raffle. We are here today for the cheque presentation. Julia tells us her story and shows us photos of the Pride of Cumbria landing outside her house, and then taking off with her inside. She herself has no memories of any of it. She tells us she would not be here today without the quick thinking and CPR training of her family, who together with the local first responder with a defibrillator, kept her alive after a stroke and cardiac arrest until our critical care team arrived and took over, stabilised her and took her to hospital. She still has a way to go but hopes to eventually get back to work.

Back in the van, Deborah and I take a moment to talk about this emotional visit. A big part of our job is meeting people whose lives have been impacted by our charity, more often than not in a life changing way. It is humbling, and it drives us to do our utmost to help keep those helicopters flying.

2.30pm: Our last call of the day takes us to Nenthead, where Mr Lowson Robinson, an ex-coalminer, has built the most amazing miniature village in his garden, attracting a lot of interest from passersby. When people started giving him money and others asked if he could build them a miniature house, Lowson decided that he would donate all the money he made with his hobby to GNAAS. That was back in 2019. Since then, he has raised the incredible sum of £13,455.

We knock on his door to say a heartfelt thank you from all of the team at GNAAS. We brought him some small gifts, and our Miles the Bear mascot is immediately given a place of honour on his mantle piece. He is very pleased with our invitation to visit our Langwathby airbase, where he will meet with the crew and have a tour of the helicopter. He invites us for a guided tour of his work shed and the village, which includes Lake District houses, Big Ben and even the Angel of the North. All of that against the breathtaking backdrop of the white-topped Pennines in the light of the setting sun, and we forget about the cold wind.

This kind and generous man has literally single-handedly enabled our critical care team to save three lives in our region. Imagine the knock-on effect that has had on the families and communities of these three patients.

5pm: We arrive back at Langwathby airbase just in time to see the Pride of Cumbria come back in from their third rescue of the day. It is already getting dark, so the helicopter will be put to bed and the doctor and paramedic will go out in our rapid response vehicle when needed. All made possible by the help of the people we met today, and everyone else who supports our charity.

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