“Are you mad?” Was one of the first reactions I received when I proposed a circuit of the M25 as a route for the 2014 Pink Car Rally.  Another was simply “Why?”

 I have, personally, avoided driving on the M25 all of my life! So why was I now proposing it as a potential rally route? Well, I am very aware that there are lots of pink cars in London and the Home Counties, but I wasn’t keen to take the rally into London.  What I really needed to do was to encourage the Londoners to come out of London! I know that the M25 has often been referred to as the world’s biggest car-park, by frustrated motorists, but in the 2012 John O’Groats to Land’s End Pink Car Rally, when we were stuck in traffic on the M5, neighbouring car drivers wound down their windows and asked what the rally was all about, so being caught in congestion was time well spent on promoting the charity. We even received a few donations!

This year’s rally will be on 6th & 7th September. Pink participants will gather in the car-park of Sainsbury’s Langley, Slough, at around 9am, for a 10am departure. Some will no doubt arrive early, to enjoy a cooked breakfast and to stock up on supplies for the road-trip.

There will be a comfort-stop at South Mimms service station at around 12 noon (traffic dependent) and we will move on from there at around 1pm, heading for intu Lakesidewhere we hope to arrive at around 3pm.  We have permission for a ‘coin collection’ here, so if you’re local, please pop along to support us.  We will happily relieve you of your loose change!  We will leave the shopping centre at 7pm, crossing the Dartford Bridge and making our way to our overnight accommodation.

Sunday 7th Sept will see the pink procession leaving Dartford at 9.30am, heading for Brands Hatch, Britain’s best-loved motor racing circuit, for a Pinkie brunch, before the ‘Official Start’ of day 2 of the rally at 11am.  From Brands Hatch, the rally will head for a ‘special stop’, which has only just been announced… Epsom Hospital…. where we hope to bring a smile to the faces of lots of children. We aim to arrive there at 12.15 and leave at 1.30pm, heading back to Sainsbury’s at Langley, Slough, to complete our circuit, at around 4.30pm

 

Please note, timings are approximate! We have only allowed ourselves two days to complete the 118 mile circuit! You can follow our progress throughout the weekend via Twitter #OrbitingTheOrbital @pinkcarrally @saligray and via our Facebook page www.facebook.com/pinkcarrally

 

If you can’t make the rally but would like to make a donation, you can do so via JustGiving – thank you.

 

It’s exactly 240 days since my last blog post. Why the long delay? I was hoping to write blog updates about the progress of the 2014 rally, but until a few weeks ago no progress had been made. In September, a ‘save the date’ announcement (7th & 8th September) was made and in October I had created an outline route and contacted the two ‘major’ comfort/media stops, seeking permission to use their car-parks. Frustratingly, it took until July for one to agree and the other still hasn’t said yes or no! I must take responsibility for some of this. I run my own business and I am a single parent to three young adults, so rally planning is done in my ‘free time’, which is usually in the evenings…. leaving me unable to make lots of badgering phone calls in office hours and at a disadvantage to large charities with dedicated fundraising teams.

During a recent business meeting with someone from the area local to the proposed rally route, I was asked how the rally was progressing. When I explained the ‘challenges, he brought google maps up on his computer and suggested an alternative venue in the area. Initially enquiries didn’t hold out much hope, but I’m forever the optimist and so I emailed a heartfelt request and, to my delight (and great relief) it was met with a resounding ‘yes’, so I’m in the process of finalising the route which should be announced in the next few days.

One of my frustrations with the Pink Car Rally initiative is the lack of national media support. Another is my inability to attract a major celebrity. The rally has enormous potential, but without these two key elements, I fear it may never reach it. Never has this been more evident than in the comparison between our rally and Chris Evans’ FAB1 initiative. How many people, new to the rally, know that in 2012 the Pink Car Rally travelled from John O’Groats to Land’s End, over six days, raising over £16k for the Little Princess Trust charity, which gives ‘real hair’ wigs to children and young people who have lost their own hair, primarily through chemotherapy? The national media didn’t want the story without a ‘hook’ although we were well supported by regional newspapers, social media and local radio. We targeted Chris Evans, because of his love of cars, but the BBC stated that we were not one of their ‘chosen’ charities, so couldn’t help! In 2013 Chris Evans created the FAB1 initiative, travelling from Land’s End to John O’Groats to a huge fanfare and media frenzy. The national media couldn’t get enough of the story. I travelled to Cribbs Causeway to see him and his entourage and was rewarded with a smile and a wave. Later, when he passed Blossom on the motorway, he pointed, smiled and waved again. Hopefully he saw the Pink Car Rally website address on the side of my car! I do love Chris Evans and have enormous respect for what he has achieved, but I’m sure you – like me – can see the irony.

So here I am in August, just a few weeks away from the 7th annual Pink Car Rally, praying that we can get enough media interest to swell the number of pink participants at this late stage. And you, dear reader, can help us by sharing this blog far and wide, RT’ing our tweets and ‘liking and sharing’ our Facebook page. If you happen to know a celebrity, please, please, encourage them to support us.

One organisation has been particularly supportive of the Pink Car Rally this year. I met Motorhappy on Twitter and they have been absolutely amazing… to the point that they turned Twitter pink for a day!  I can’t tell you how #Motorhappy that made me! 

I would just like to finish this blog post by saying a massive THANK YOU to Motorhappy and everyone else who has supported the rally. We have over 3000 likes on our Facebook page, from over 40 countries. Between my Twitter account and the Pink Car Rally Twitter account, we have nearly 3000 followers. We appreciate each and every ‘share’ and RT. Thank you.

Pink pit stop during 2013 rally

Pink pit stop during 2013 rally

 

I confess – before Wednesday, I had never come across the word ‘Dondolina’. I pride myself on a fairly extensive vocabulary, which I attribute to being an avid reader from a very young age…. but hand on heart, I had never heard this word before.

On Wednesday, I visited BOAB, with the husband and son of Pinkie Liz. We had been invited to take part in a very exciting photo-shoot at BOAB with Adam Stanford from Aerial-Cam and Neil Watterson, Deputy Editor of Land Rover Owner Magazine.  We were tempted by a very generous donation to the charity (as a thank you for helping them) and some rather nice mince pies!

And so on Wednesday morning, it was my great delight to see my first ever Dondolina…. and I have to say that I might just have fallen in love a little. (Just to clarify – I mean with the Dondolina and not with the very nice gentlemen who were present!!!)

So – what is a Dondolina? My best description would be ‘a pop up tent, which sits on the roof-bars of your car!’ Now, speaking as someone who finds the thought of camping absolutely hideous….. (yes I have tried it….. once….. and I remain traumatised!) I can honestly say that I would try a Dondolina! There’s something about sleeping ‘high up’, away from creepy crawlies, mud, flash flooding, cows (!) which is very appealing. And then, when I factor in the fact that the Dondolina I saw was PINK! Well, what can I say? Apart from “I want one”, but of course I would first need a different car :-( because sadly the fab photos of Blossom on BOAB’s site were only to stop her sulking at all the attention the Dondolina was attracting, when it was on the roof bars of Liz’s gorgeous Kia Sorento….. so not wanting Blossom to feel too left out, Chris from BOAB (with the very careful use of a pallet-truck) let her try the Dondolina for herself!

The outside of the Dondolina was impressive in itself, but the inside was something else! For a start, it had a MATTRESS, which felt very comfortable. It also had pillows and, wait for it, they were all…… LEOPARD PRINT!!! Amazing!

So – how does one get into their Dondolina? With a tiny ladder, of course! Elementary…. Now I did have to give BOAB a little piece of constructive feedback here – the ladder was silver? And as every Pinkie in the world would tell you….. that ladder needs to be PINK! So, a pink option is being investigated – if they can do it, it might cost a bit more, but let’s face it – if you have a pink Dondolina and a pink car, it would be worth a little surcharge to have a pink ladder!

I LOVE  the word Dondolina – it just rolls around your tongue and I think it should be in everybody’s vocabulary (although, of course it already might be! You might all already have known it….) so please help me to educate the whole world by sharing this blog post. It would make a great after-dinner conversation piece… “Do you know, I saw the most dashing Dondolina the other day!” Watch for the reaction – and if they don’t know what it is, do tell them…. because if you or they decide they might want a PINK one…. then BOAB has kindly offered to donate £50 for every pink one sold, to the Little Princess Trust. Furthermore, if you have been on one of our Pink Car Rallies, he will also give you a little pink discount!!

 

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I spent today in Regent Arcade, Cheltenham, selling Pink Car Rally Charity Calendars. I was in a super location, in between Druckers and Thorntons, with BHS on my left and the exit doors in front of me, offset to the left. I thought I had dressed warmly; long sleeved thermal vest, long sleeved top, pink car rally t.shirt, big pink zip-up hoodie, woolly tights, trousers, socks and comfortable shoes! In fact, I thought I was going to over-heat before I left home! In the event, I was decidedly chilly for a lot of the day, so spent a lot of time ‘bouncing’ on the spot, to keep warm!

But – and I don’t mean this to be as cheesy as it might sound – the thing which brought me most warmth during the day, was the amazing conversations I had with the lovely people who came to say “Hello”, to buy a calendar, or to pop some pennies in the collecting tub. Their stories were incredibly moving and I felt very honoured to have been told some very personal things. I want to share a few of these things with you, without giving away any confidences, so that I can make what we do ‘real’ for you, too.

I will list some of the things that were shared with me, in bullet form – please remember, these comments were made today. Just today. 

  • My daughter recently donated her hair to your charity (several people said this)
  • I am so pleased to see you – my daughter has just had her hair cut – where should we send it?
  • I’ve brought a hair donation with me – please can I give it to you?
  • I’m planning to grow/cut my hair and donate it to the charity.
  • One of my family members has received one of your wigs (more than one person said this)
  • I have just discovered I have cancer (young person)
  • I would like to donate. This is my son, he had cancer when he was young. (Gorgeously handsome and extremely healthy looking young man smiles at me)
  • I have alopecia. (Followed by a very moving discussion)
  • I wanted to thank you for what you do – my daughter is wearing one of your wigs.

I’m sure I haven’t remembered ALL of the comments that were made… I didn’t write any down – perhaps I should have, but I certainly didn’t expect to hear so many links to the charity.

Today made me think back to 2007, when I first volunteered to help raise awareness of the charity and, thinking on my feet, suggested that I create a Pink Car Rally. I can remember having many, many conversations…. repeating over and over again, the name of the charity, what it did, where it was based etc., etc., No-one had heard of it, but as always… once people heard about it, they loved it.  In fact, one lady who chatted with me today said much the same thing. She knows Simon & Wendy Tarplee, who founded the charity and she used to regularly suggest that the Little Princess Trust should be the ‘chosen charity’ for her workplace, but no-one would support the suggestion because they hadn’t heard of it! Now they actively support it and love it!

In the six years since I first volunteered to help raise awareness of the charity, I have watched this wonderful organisation grow and flourish.  It now has a small team of very dedicated paid staff, and a team of passionate, loyal volunteers.  It has grown to such an extent, that it has now given over 2000 ‘real hair’ wigs to children who have lost their own hair, mainly through cancer treatment.  

The more well-known the charity becomes, the more families it will be able to help and so today was not just about selling calendars.  There were still plenty of people today who were unaware of the charity and the Pink Car Rally….. but nowhere near as many as there used to be!  

But whereas six years ago, when I started promoting the charity no-one had heard of it before, today was very different. It was wonderful that so many people already new about the charity, but the people who shared their stories with me were the ones who illustrated this fact most… and to those people in particular, I would like to say “Thank you, for making it real, because it’s hearing stories like yours that helps me to realise that the hours I and all of the other volunteers donate to the charity, do have an effect”. I will return to Regent Arcade tomorrow wearing an additional layer of clothing, an even bigger smile on my face and a very warm, fuzzy feeling in my heart. 

PS We raised an amazing £212.93 today – thank you :-)

I perhaps should confess that I had never heard of Old Down Manor a few weeks ago! But then Blossom’s friend Candy the Pink Hyundai changed her Facebook profile photo to one showing her parked outside a fabulous venue – Old Down Manor.

So, I googled Old Down and read all about the Manor, the Country Park, the Bistro, the Cafe and their forthcoming Christmas Fair.  It all sounded so fabulous, that I took Blossom down to Tockington (South Glos) to find out more. Well lunch was a massive success – you probably saw my tweet? I loved the tiny Pigmy Kids and the Manor House looked amazing – at least it did from the outside! I enquired about the Christmas Fair, explaining about the Pink Car Rally Charity Calendars and they kindly squeezed me in!

Blossom was gleaming when we left this morning and positively preening by the time we pulled up at the Manor House. After unloading all things pink, I parked her in prime position in the carpark, so she could show-off all day. I laid out my pink wares and took the opportunity to look at all of the other stands, before the event started. They were absolutely amazing! I had been placed opposite Barefoot Portraits at the far end of the room, and I have to say that watching the photographer at work was absolutely magical! Mandy managed to engage with each and every child and evoked the biggest beaming smiles I have ever seen. She must be totally exhausted!

I spent most of the day asking people who approached my display whether they knew about the Pink Car Rally…. “No”… Needless to say, they do now! Then the pink tide turned, when a couple said “Yes – you were at Bradley Stoke last year”. We were indeed!!! We had a comfort stop there, during ‘The Big One’ – our epic End2End Pink Car Rally. They made my day…. but then it got better…. people were giving me donations, buying calendars, someone mentioned they had some hair to donate, someone else mentioned that they knew a teenager who might like one of our wigs, I met a lovely wig maker and had a big chat with her…… and the pink icing on the cake???? I met the lovely Gemma….. who recently received one of our wigs!!!!! Hello again Gemma :-) What a wonderful day!  I was quite sorry to pack my pink things away – I didn’t want to leave! I returned to find Blossom being admired by two beautiful girls, who were having their photos taken next to her. She looked very happy indeed and had had a lovely day too – her friend Candy had been and they had managed to spend some time together.

I have been home long enough to count the money raised today and to my surprise (and delight) it totals £79 – so big thanks to all who contributed :-)

So…. the Festive Fair at Old Down Manor really was full of surprises….. and not just Christmas ones…..

I’m busy planning the 2014 Pink Car Rally Fundraising Campaign and I have decided that we need a Pink Car, as 1st  prize in our Special Pink Raffle.  Now, I realise it’s a BIG ASK, but my glass is ALWAYS half-full…. so all I have to do now, is to find a company which has a kind heart, values what we are trying to achieve, loves the work of the Little Princess Trust Charity.. and ‘hey presto’ –  decides to present us with a Pink Car to raffle!

Now… let me just turn my hat around and look at it from the other perspective. Being both a volunteer and a business coach enables me to look at a situation from both sides.  The first consideration to any commercial company is the ‘what’s in it for me?’ factor. Sadly, the simple fact that they are helping a charity doesn’t cut the muster! I understand that. I also realise that most commercial companies seem to prefer to donate to the ‘huge’ charities… which of course gives them good press coverage, recognition and appreciation from the public, to name but a few ‘benefits’.  

However, I would argue the case for a small charity, where such a donation could make an incredible impact – the benefits to the donor company could be greater than they could possibly imagine.  For example, I use every possible minute of my spare time to promote the Pink Car Rally, and any business which ‘helps and supports’ us is thanked very publicly.  The best illustration of this is the story of the Pink National Express Coach:-

In 2009 I entered National Express’s ‘Bling My Coach’ competition, whereby people were invited to design a livery for one of their coaches and say where they would take the coach, if they won the competition.  I was one of 5 finalists, whose designs went to public vote.  My design was pink and incorporated the Little Princess Trust Charity’s logo, together with the Pink Car Rally website address. The public voted and soon the two front-runners were Action for Children and the Pink Car Rally and believe me, we were ‘neck and neck’.  It was incredibly stressful!  Now, if you look at the Action for Children website, you can see that even in 2009 their annual report mentioned 12,000+ volunteers and supporters (huge voting potential) and ‘millions of pounds’ raised through fundraising.  The Little Princess Trust, at this time, might just have recruited its first paid staff member!  And the volunteers could probably be counted on 4 hands! Fearsome competition and yet we won! So how on earth did we do it? Sheer determination and the power of social networking! The coach was duly wrapped pink and joined the 2010 Pink Car Rally, carrying pink passengers.  It became part of the main National Express fleet, owned by their franchisee Yeomans Travel, Hereford, and could regularly be seen on the Hereford, Gloucester, Cheltenham, London route and in fact, was only recently ‘unwrapped’.  National Express and Yeomans Travel kindly continued to support the rally for another two years, by entering the pink coach in the 2011 rally and in two legs of The Big One – the 2012 End2End rally.

The coach became a much-photographed, travelling advertisement for both the charity and the rally.  Needless to say, we were incredibly grateful to National Express and thanked them publicly, many times.  In addition, we mentioned the National Express Pink Coach in every press release, during every radio interview, on our Facebook page, on Twitter, on Linked-in, whilst giving our ‘charity talks’, during networking events….. at any and every conceivable opportunity.  In 2011, the Head of Media for National Express told me that their stats showed that we had generated an unsurpassed level of publicity for them.

So…. I’m looking for a Pink Car, for the 1st Prize in our Special Pink Raffle.  Please can you help me to find one?  And if anyone should ask you “what’s in it for us” you will be able to tell them “more than you could possibly imagine.”Image

I have had a very productive week, in terms of Pink Car Rally awareness raising. I worked hard to produce an ‘all encompassing’ press release (yes, I know it’s very long, but I figured journalists could take out the bits that they particularly liked, or the pieces which were more relevant to their target audience). As usual, I read & re-read the release, before pressing ‘send’….. so why oh why didn’t that awful typo jump out at me? <blush> Don’t you just HATE making mistakes? I know I do…. but it’s like that email which has circulated for years, which is a piece of text where the letters in the words are jumbled up, so technically the writing should make no sense… and yet we are able to read it, as if the words were spelt correctly!

And that, ladies and gentlemen, is how I managed to tell the world that Pinkies Nadine and Tania had ‘horrible bottoms’ in 2012 :-( To my knowledge, they didn’t, but they did both have a horrible year, which is why I organised a 6th Pink Car Rally and took it to Nottinghamshire, where they both live.

For those of you who might be interested in the press release, I have pasted the corrected version below….

Pink Car Rally races ahead with another record-breaking year of fundraising.

Whilst many small charities are feeling the pinch in this period of austerity, pounds have been pouring out of people’s purses, across the UK, in support of the Pink Car Rally’s innovative annual event, to the extent that 2013 fundraising total already exceeds the record-breaking 2012 total.

Sali Gray, organiser of the Pink Car Rally explained “I created the Pink Car Rally as a five-year programme, to raise awareness of, and funds for, the Little Princess Trust charity, which gives ‘real-hair’ wigs to children and young people throughout the UK and Ireland, who have lost their own hair primarily through cancer treatments. The 5th rally, last year, should have been the final one and in fact we called it The Big One. We drove from John O’Groats to Land’s End, and having split the country into six legs, we took six days to complete it. We raised an astonishing £16,067.06 which funded nearly 46 wigs. I decided to organise a 6th rally after two of our regular Pinkies missed The Big One.  2012 was an annus horribilis for sisters Nadine and Tania, with Nadine developing cancer and Tania having a serious motorway crash, whilst on her way to meet the rally! So I organised a 2013 ‘2 days – 2 destinations’ rally and took it to their home county of Nottinghamshire on day one and then to Peterborough on day two. Never in my wildest dreams did I envisage that this year’s rally would raise more money than The Big One, but to date it has already raised £17,018.90”

With so many households having to drastically cut back on non-essential items, what is it that makes people want to donate to this event and how did a small group of pink car enthusiasts manage to raise so much money? Sali strongly believes the secret is ‘pink passion’. “We are very active on our Facebook page and now have over 3000 ‘likes’ from people in 45 countries. I think that is an indicator of the pink passion that is spreading across the world. I have been asked whether it would be possible to organise Pink Car Rallies in several other countries including America, Canada, Germany and Australia. There is just something about pink cars that strikes a chord with people. Once we have their attention, we tell them about the wonderful work of the charity. Losing your hair is a traumatic experience at any age, but especially so for children. People can relate to that and want to do something to help fund these beautiful wigs, which can be washed and styled because they are made from ‘real hair’.”

Will there be any more annual Pink Car Rallies? “Oh yes”, said Sali without a hint of hesitation, “how could I end on 6 rallies? I like ‘neat numbers’ so there will have to be 10 and besides, there is a lot of the UK and Ireland that we haven’t been to yet.  Next year’s rally will be on the 6th & 7th September and I’m planning a route to encompass some of the Home Counties.”

In the meantime, Sali is keen to find a few more people who might be willing to make a donation. “I am really delighted that the 2013 Pink Car Rally Fundraising Team has raised so much money, but I would dearly love to raise another £481.10 because £17,500 would fund 50 ‘real hair’ wigs, which would be amazing, both for the charity and because I really do like ‘neat numbers’!”  Donations can be made via www.justgiving.com/sali-gray-2013-pink-car-rally

 

 

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