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Running for Rachael - fundraising for my sister's stem cell transplant

In today's blog, Richard Davison tells us about his sister Rachael, who needs a stem cell transplant - and talks about the incredible things the entire family have been doing to raise awareness and funds for Anthony Nolan. It's an incredibly useful insight if you're thinking of doing your own fundraising!



Rachael’s story - and the need for a stem cell transplant

Rachael suffers from B-Cell Lymphoma, which is one of the more common forms of blood cancer. Following her diagnosis and first few rounds of treatment, her immediate family were tested to find out if they could donate their stem cells so that Rachael could have a transplant.

Unfortunately, none of her family members are a strong enough match, but thanks to Anthony Nolan’s international blood donor list not one, but two potential matches have been found!

While Rachael still battles to achieve the right conditions for the stem cell transplant to take place, her family and friends rally around her and started the Running for Rachael marathon fundraising team.

In today’s blog, I'm going to explore the activities the whole team have been engaged in to raise money and awareness for the Anthony Nolan cause.


How we started fundraising

In March 2015 my brother in law (Alex Hyde) and I (Richard Davison) decided that we wanted a way to keep people updated on Rachael’s progress, and what was happening, in a positive way. As such, we chose to join the Anthony Nolan Marathon team on a charity placement. Our combined target was originally £10k but to date the total has surpassed £16k!


What we've achieved

Rachael herself has been writing a C-Word style blog (visit Rachael’s blog here), documenting her experiences of living with the condition.

This in itself has been one of the most influential means of raising funds towards the cause. Rachael has a great job working in corporate communications - she has a natural ability with the English language.  Her natural affinity for words and an honest and provoking account of living with the disease has created a huge amount of awareness. It has also inspired many people to come forward, place donations and learn more about what Anthony Nolan does.


Incredibly, the Battersea Park football tournament raised over £1,700 for the cause


One of the first events that we ran was a Football Tournament in Battersea Park, SW London. Setting this event up was surprisingly easy! Having got in touch with a number of venues and figured out the costs, we had the infrastructure setup within a week of conceiving the idea. The tricky bit, in truth, was getting teams confirmed and committed.

We went for a corporate invitation route, where companies were invited to sponsor and submit a team. A lesson learned in this respect is that it helps to have the ear of the owners, or CFO of a business, or someone passionate about football - who can apply what I will call strong 'pester power' to their bosses to make it work. There was a nail-biting fortnight leading up to the event to make sure we had enough teams and players confirmed.

Nonetheless, with all elements in place - the pitches, refs, equipment and teams confirmed - the competition went ahead and raised over £1,700.

Additionally, my brother-in-law Alex had the opportunity to run a charity raffle at the annual Law Society Rugby Ball. As a long-term player and captain of one of the teams, the organisers were more than happy to dedicate a slot during the proceedings to run a raffle. Prizes that were donated included a selection of Space NK goodies for the long suffering WAGS and a few bottles of bubbly for the table; in the end, this event raised over £1,000.


How have we spread the word?

As a digital marketeer in my day job, I personally have plenty of experience in using different online communication channels to help the cause. Below is a list of the methods we used to drum up interest:

  • Route 1 was always going to be social media. Many people came forward and showed their support after only one message out from Rachael's blog. The spread of Rachael’s blog through Facebook alone has even been shared numerous times around the world - from the States to Australia, with donations exceeding £5,000. For those wishing to set up their own blog, it’s free and easy to do with Wordpress, Blogspot and many other platforms.
  • Don’t try and do it all yourself. A team is always stronger than an individual. What started out as my brother-in-law and myself trying to make sense of the situation and wanting to do something symbolic, has turned into a six-man team with people stepping forward to run their own events. The team collectively has raised over £16,000 to date.
  • Run events at work that everyone can get behind. In the months preceding the London Marathon I will be running a cake bake at work. People love baking and given the opportunity to show off their culinary skills, will do so. A slice of cake sold for £1.50 each will quickly add up to a handsome donation.
  • I have also used my own business websites. Through my home removal company Volition Removals, I have added a JustGiving link to into my email signature, added a link to the website and sent out periodic updates on Facebook, Twitter and Google Plus.
  • In the case of the football tournament, we tried advertising for teams on some more mainstream websites such as Gumtree or at local sport centres. This proved a good way of getting players but the message didn’t adequately get in front of business decision makers who may have sponsored a team.
  • The most powerful method of bringing everything together has been simply talking to people about what we’re doing. Being enthusiastic and giving people the opportunity to be involved if they want, and on their own terms, is why we now have 6 people in the team.

Teamwork was key for Richard & Alex's fundraising efforts


What comes next

We are now fully into the training and preparation phase for the marathon itself. We will continue the balancing act of general work/ life commitments with an additional 5 hours a week of running training. We will continue to support Rachael throughout the treatment and of course stay positive. We’re all doing it together.


To support Richard, Rachael, Alex, and the entire family, please visit their JustGiving page here.