A new year for adventure

The Aurora Borealis over Eielson Air Force base, Alaska
U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Joshua Strang

It’s a brand new year, Adventure-seekers! And do you know what this means? No, not New Year resolutions — but that the Great Arctic Fundraisng Adventure is now a matter of weeks away! No longer is it “next year”, but instead something like 8 weeks away.

Am I crazy to be swapping a nice warm flat in east London for some basic cabins in the Arctic Circle, and exchanging my days of social media marketing for sledding across frozen lakes and Arctic forests?

People ask me “Isn’t life an adventure on its own?”. So, maybe I am crazy, because the answer for me is no. When I am looking up at the Aurora Borealis, or speeding across the Arctic tundra with a pack of huskies I will know this is why I am doing it.

Not forgetting the other reason why I am doing it, either — raising £6,000 for Macmillan Cancer Support.

The new University College Hospital Macmillan Cancer Centre will open this year, and cost £100 million to build. Macmillan Cancer Support will be making its biggest ever contribution, of £10 million, towards the centre. The University College Hospital Macmillan Cancer Centre will be the first of its kind in the NHS and will redefine the ways patients are treated, using the best diagnostic and treatment techniques to improve survival rates.

Macmillan will provide a Wellbeing Centre within the building where people affected by cancer can find the best information and support, including advice around coping with personal and financial impact of cancer and returning to work.

The start of a new year can be hard when you have lost loved ones. You wonder what their plans might have been for the year ahead. It can also be tough on anyone living with cancer, or caring for someone living with cancer. Macmillan Cancer Support are there, providing help and support. If you want to find out more about Macmillan, or would like to contact them follow the links or visit http://www.macmillan.org.uk/

So far I have raised £3,359 towards the Great Arctic Fundraising Adventure for Macmillan — and this year promises more pub quizzes, more station collections, and the Aurora Borealis.  You can help support the Arctic Adventure with a donation here or by buying a fundraising calendar here.

Mon amour, l’aventure commence

Image source: http://bit.ly/nw3xgY

It’s official.

I signed up.  I paid my money, I filled out the form, and I signed up. The Great Arctic Fundraising Adventure starts here.

I saw the doctor last week, and it was probably one of the fastest check-ups ever.  I explained I was travelling to the Arctic Circle next year, he raised an eyebrow.  I told him I wanted a clean bill of health before signing up.  He checked my notes, listened to my chest, confirmed that there wasn’t anything I was currently suffering with, and ordered a variety of blood tests — just to be thorough.

I asked, “Should I be concerned by the trip down the stairs I had a few years back?  Before the Peru adventure?”
“Do you have any symptoms now?” He responded
“No…”
“Then I’m sure it’s fine.”

And that’s it, it’s official — short of the blood tests showing up anything alarming (which, let’s face it, they won’t): I am healthy.  I won’t say “fit and healthy” as there is a lot of fitness work to go between now and next March — along with a lot of fundraising.

The fundraising goal is £6,000 which seems insurmountable — but the way I see is if I can get 60 companies to each donate £100, then I’m set.  The publicity and promotion machine must now get to work.

Speaking of publicity, a special thank you goes out today to David Gallagher, the Senior Partner / President of Ketchum Pleon PR who kindly retweeted a link to my JustGiving page.  Thank you, David!  Also worthy of heartfelt gratitude for a retweet is John Williams, author of the inspirational book Screw Work, Let’s Play — his 30 Day Screw Work, Let’s Play Programme has given me some much needed support and contacts.

As mentioned, I have already set up a JustGiving page, along with a Facebook page, and a LinkedIn group.  Take up of memberships to the social media  pages has been slow getting started — I expected donations to take a lot of work, but have been surprised by a lack of interest to join the Facebook page.

Donations, on the other hand, have started strong — I have received to date two donations of £50 each, which means I only have £5,900 left to raise.   One of the organisers of the Hacker News London Meetup group has agreed to put out a message to the group about my fundraising adventure, for which I am very grateful –I was hoping this might be a way to find 60 companies each willing to make a £100 donation, but that might have been a little optimistic.

I am now wrestling with myself over whether I should ask more groups I am associated with through my work for their help, or whether I should keep a separation between the two.

The message remains the same however: all donations, of any size, are equally welcome — and if you are unable or unwilling to donate, there are other ways you can help.  You can help by telling people about my adventure, and why I am doing it. You can help by finding out if there is anyone in your company I can ask for a donation from. You can help by suggesting big companies with PR budgets I could talk to. You can help by suggesting press contacts who would be interested in my adventure.  Or you can help by just giving me messages of encouragement — it’s all welcome.

Warning: road block ahead

Image source: http://www.roadblockdnb.co.uk

We left the flat-footed adventurer last time trying to find support from adventurer-turned-Gardener’s-World-presenter Ben Fogle, as well as financial help and press coverage from the Docklands newspaper.  So, what is new?

My email to the editor of Docklands was met with an auto-reply: he was out of the office, please contact x in his absence.  Fair enough, I redrafted the email and sent it to the new news contact.  Two emails, two auto-replies.  This contact had actually left the newspaper some weeks before — and was now on an adventure of his own, in Africa.  You can follow his own adventures on the site It All Began in Africa.  It’s very inspiring stuff — doing good work, and finding positive stories in such an often-misunderstood continent.  This auto-reply gave me yet another contact — but I figured maybe the paper’s editor was just out of office for a day or two.

I called the newspaper the next day, using all of my own journalist training to sound expected, asking for the editor by name, and feigning surprise when I was he was out of the office.  What I didn’t expect, when I asked if he would be back in the following day, was to be told he was on long-term sick leave.  Often this is code for a nervous breakdown, but I wish the man well, whatever the circumstances.  I got from the receptionist a name for the news editor who was effectively in charge these days, but didn’t take the offer of being put straight through — people rarely appreciate cold calls.  The third email — to the news editor — ddn’t bounce back.  It also got absolutely no response whatsoever.  My offer to the Docklands newspaper for exclusive coverage of my dog sled adventure was as good as refused.

In a continuing theme, I have also not had a response from Ben Fogle.  That’s hardly a surprise, however — I get more emails than I can handle at work, I can’t imagine how many emails someone like Ben Fogle must get.  I doubt he ever even saw it.

But help has come from an unexpected place.  My work.

I deliberately didn’t ask them for any donation for financial support before now — not because I didn’t think they would provide it, but because I didn’t think it was fair to put them in that position.  However, when I was telling a colleague recently about the adventure and my struggle to get the money to sign up, he pointed out the obvious: I could earn it.  It was obvious: in exchnage for £500, I will work one evening a week for the next 10 or so weeks — on top of the day job.  Yes, it means that once a week I will be working 12 hour days or longer, but it’s worth it.

That was one road block stormed through: I’ll get the money in this month’s pay.  I am now free to sign up for the adventure.

I made contact with Cancer Research UK, to register to fundraise for them, to tell them my plans — and to get their permission.  This last part has thrown up road block number 2.  I am welcome to fundraise for them, and they will give me all the support I need: except for the option of the “minimum sponsorship” for the trip.  The charity does not have the facilities to pay Across the Divide for the trip, so if I want to take part and want to raise money for them, that’s all great — but it has to be self funded.

My early attempts at securing a corporate sponsor for this failed, and my more recent attempt to just get sponsorship for the deposit also floundered.  If I didn’t have £500, I certainly don’t have the best part of £3,000.  So, I have returned to the idea of fundraising for Macmillan Cancer Support.  It’s not a case of favouring one charity over another, I was planning to fundraise for Cancer Research only because my cousin requested for my uncle John’s funeral that donations go to Cancer Research — his illness had been too rapid for him to receive any support at home from Macmillan.  I like to think of cancer patients and their families getting the support that they need, and I think my uncle John would have felt the same way.  Naturally, my family have no objections to any choice of charity.

Macmillan Cancer Support have in a way given me a third road block in the process of helping me overcome the second.  They are absolutely fine with the “Minimum Sponsorship” option, and being invoiced by Across the Divide for the cost of the trip — except that they have a different cost to donation ratio than the organisers.  What does this mean? It means that I will have a higher minimum sponsorship — instead of £4,500 it will be more like £6,000.

Next week is the beginning of July. The trip will be in March.  I expect I will have to have raised the money by about January.  That’s roughly £1,000 a month.  Do we think I can do it?  I have to think about it and talk to Macmillan’s fundraising team.  I spoke to someone tonight who told me that his own experience of fundraising has shown him that recording your event and making it available afterwards can double your total raised — just in donations received after the event.  It’s worth bearing in mind.

The next wave of companies being contacted for help/sipport/collateral will be footwear companies — who better to support an adventurer with flat feet like myself — and perhaps electronics companies who would like to give or lend me a small camera.

But first, I should sign up for the adventure.

The Flat Footed Adventurer needs a patron!

Image source: http://tinyurl.com/44n294x

Next year, the big adventure is Dog Sledding in the Arctic Circle — courtesy of Across the Divide.

To self-fund the challenge will cost me £2,860, including the £500 deposit I have to pay on registering.  All fundraising money raised between now and the trip would be donated 100% to Cancer Research.

Alternatively, I can choose to raise a minimum of £4,720 in sponsorship for Cancer Research and pay only the £500 deposit from my own money.

I only need £500 to sign up with this option, but that’s money I don’t have lying around, going spare.  But I do have some ideas on what I can do about this.

What I need as “The Flat Footed Adventurer” is some kind of sponsorship, or support — in other words, I need a patron.  The idea is if this challenge and the resulting publicity is successful to turn “The Flat Footed Adventurer” into a Free Range Career.

But we need to focus on this challenge first, and my ideas need some explaining  I have made a list of as far as I can tell everything I need to make this challenge happen, and it looks something like this:

  • Finance: This is most important, as I don’t have £2860 — corporate support towards this target will allow me to register and begin the charity fundraising.
  • Fitness: This will be a challenge in the true sense of the word, and will require me to be dedicated to getting into the best physical shape I can be — and have ever been.  To do this I will need expert training, guidance and support.
  • Publicity: I am a talented writer, and I want to document every step of the challenge, from signing up and raising money for Cancer Research, to the days spent sledding through the Norwegian wilderness.  I will need help in getting my journals publicised — and later, hopefully, published.

I have tried making contact with several large financial institutions.  8 out of 10 did not give me the time of day to even respond.  One replied, curtly, that they do not support individuals.  One replied and was both warm and helpful, sadly they could not help but they wished me luck.  That was a bust.

The trouble is, I don’t know who to contact.  Surely, there are companies out there who could help and would want to help.  When I hiked the Inca Trail in 2009, it was largely due to the help of transport giant First Group who were very generous in their sponsorship — and they, in return, received a wealth of publicity, both in print and online.  There is a tremendous opportunity for positive PR for any companies supporting me with this — helped my own background in Public Relations.  I am hoping this will help me to at least find people who might know people who can help.

Without the finance in place, I can’t begin to find contacts for help with the other parts — because the trip can’t happen.  I can get as fit as I like, learn to speak Norwegian and have a stunning network of people eager to help publicise my writing, but it’s all for nothing if I can’t even afford to go.

Cancer has directly affected my family.  In 2008, my aunt Margie succumbed to the illness after a long battle — she had loved to travel, and loved walking, and she was my inspiration for the trip to Machu Picchu.  In 2010, my uncle John (my aunt’s — and my Dad’s — brother) was the victim of an aggressive brain cancer.  The illness took him so quickly that there wasn’t time to receive any nursing at home, but the family requested any donations to be made to Cancer Research UK.  My uncle loved dogs, and this seems like a fitting way to remember both my aunt Margie and my uncle John, who were my Dad’s two oldest siblings.  I want to be able to raise awareness as well as money for Cancer Research. In the UK alone, someone is diagnosed with cancer every two minutes.

To summarise, what do I need from you?  I need you to help spread the word.  Please share this post with friends, with family, with followers.  Please.  Take 10 seconds just to think if you work for, or know, a company that would be able to help me achieve this challenge.  But most of all, please help spread the word — or if you have a spare few grand, and want the publicity, get in touch!

>May 8 update

>Now it’s getting really close — as of today, it’s 21 days until the big challenge. So far the updates have all been about me — my fundraising, my training, requests for more donations. But I want to take some time to remember the whole reason I am doing this challenge.

1 in 3 people will have cancer, of some kind, at some point in their lives. To put that into perspective a little, 25 people who have joined this group will one day suffer from some form of cancer. Think of your groups of friends and your immediate family — what does 1 in 3 represent? Even if personally we won’t have cancer ourselves, we are all affected.

Macmillan Cancer Support, in their own words, provide people with practical, medical, emotional and financial support — and push for better cancer care.

Macmillan are literally a source of support, helping with all the things that people affected by cancer want and need. It’s not only patients who live with cancer, so they are there to also help carers, families and communities. Macmillan guide people through the system, supporting them every step of the way.

They fund nurses and other specialist health care professionals and build cancer care centres. But they give so much more than medical help.

People need practical support at home, so Macmillan provide anything from some precious time off for a carer, to a lift to hospital. People need emotional support, so they listen, advise and share information though their CancerLine, website, support groups and trained professionals. People need financial help to cope with the extra costs cancer can bring, so Macmillan give benefits advice, and grants for anything from heating bills to travel costs.

Together Macmillan listen, learn, and act to help people live with cancer.

This is the reason why I am going to Peru, so that Macmillan can carry on giving support, and keep giving help to the people that really need it.

Macmillan have been there for my family, just as they are there every day for so many others.

>Moving into marketing — and more donations!

>
It’s been too long since my last update, please forgive me loyal followers, supporters and sponsors!

Since my last update, I have got a new job — leaving behind the grey, drab world of purchasing I have become the new marketing guy for my company. What this means most importantly is I have almost complete control of my Peru trek publicity. The local “operating company” of my much larger company have formally agreed to sponsor me a very generous sum towards my final target. Putting my PR and journalistic skills to good use, I have produced press releases publicising the fact — from a local angle (company gives money to local man) and the more corporate angle, for the trade press.

There has been a warm response from two local paid-for newspapers in Essex, with one daily evening paper sending a photographer round to my house this evening to take pictures. The other paper is very keen to run the story but is asking me to provide the pictures. Of course, I should have thought of this in the first place before sending the releases out — they will get much more interest if they come with pictures. This will be remedied in the next day or two.

In other sponsorship news, my first fundraising event has been confirmed for the evening of October 22. A charity quiz night, hosted by a local DJ and renowned quiz master, is in the process of being booked — the idea is for there to be six people to a team, paying £5 each, with the hall holding about 60 people in total. I have begun soliciting local shops and businesses for raffle prizes, next I need to work out some kind of advertising.

The Facebook group has swelled in numbers since my last post, it is now up to nearly 60 members and is a great way to publicise the fundraising events I am planning. It is also an easy way of keeping supporters updated with the sponsorship progress.

Money donated (or promised via my paper sponsorship form) to date totals almost £500! The handy little graphic in the sidebar tells me this makes it up to 15%. In the last three days I have had three separate donations; the Lions Club of South Woodham Ferrers have generously donated £100, my uncle sent me a cheque for a further £50 and a good friend this evening has donated £15.

I aim to have hit the £500 by the end of this weekend — but let’s see if I can smash through that target!

As always, anyone wanting to find out more information about the Peru hiking challenge, or the work of Macmillan, please visit http://www.macmillan.org.uk/peru. And any kind souls who would like to help support my great Peru trek for Macmillan Cancer Support can do so on my JustGiving page.

>Things moving along very nicely

>
Ten days on from the blog and my Justgiving page going live, and I am pleased to report things are going along very well indeed. To summarise, briefly:

The dedicated Facebook group is nearly up to 50 members, with friends, family and friends-of-friends all joining to wish me luck with my trek and with the cause. Now, how to convert “members” into “sponsors” :)

Speaking of sponsors, sponsorship is currently at £275! It is nearly an even split between online and offline donations, which is interesting to know. Give it time, and I will be producing piecharts for this info. And for anyone wondering, the current total is 8% of the required £3,300. What does this mean? We are nearly into double figures already! I expect to break through the £300 barrier in a matter of days.

Initial negotiations with my company regarding corporate sponsorship have been positive, so I am hopeful that I will have more good news to report there soon. I am also in negotiations regarding having a “dress down” day, with £1 to join in — and tomorrow I will be floating the idea of a Halowe’en theme and prize for the best dressed. Even if I have to provide the prize myself.

Contact has been established with my area’s fundraising rep for Macmillan, who will be dutifully putting me in touch with the local team. I expect promotional materials, collection boxes and information about how to go about public collections to follow in short order. Along with lashings of moral support.

Finally, initial reports from the gym show that my fitness is moving in the right direction since my last reassessment. My body fat is down to 20% (and hopefully falling), and we have now completely redesigned my fitness program to incorporate much more climbing, walking, and CV work. I might try wearing a freezer bag over my head next time I’m using the step machine, for that authentic Inca Trail experience.

Remember, if you would like to help contribute towards my challenge and support Macmillan Cancer Support, please visit my JustGiving page.

>Going to Peru for Macmillan Cancer Support

>
In December last year, my aunt lost her long battle with cancer. In her memory I have signed up to hike the Inca Trail for Macmillan Cancer Support. My aunt spoke of the Macmillan nurses as if they were saints to her, and I can think of no better tribute to her memory.

I will be joining around 60 people trekking the Inca Trail as part of Macmillan’s Peru Hiking Challenge, between 29 May and 7 June 2009. The 10 day challenge will take us through cloud forest to a 4200m Andean peak, trekking along high mountain passes to Machu Picchu, Peru’s famous lost city of the Incas. It promises to be an extremely testing physical challenge as we will be trekking and camping in remote and dramatic conditions. The event, and the months of preparation, will be tough but I am doing this to raise money for Macmillan Cancer Support (registered charity no 261017).

I have to raise a minimum of £3,300 to take part in the event, of which at least 67% will benefit Macmillan Cancer Support. I hope to raise much more than this and hope that you will all consider sponsoring me in my challenge, which I am aware is a very minor compared with the challenge that cancer patients face each day.

If you are able to support me in my challenge, please visit my JustGiving page