Image

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!

Promoting the rally at Old Down Manor

Promoting the rally at Old Down Manor

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

 

 

It is far too long sine I last Blogged, so my November resolution is to Blog more frequently! And what better way to start than to tell you about our latest fundraising initiative! Last weekend we launched our 1st ever Pink Car Rally Calendar, which can be purchased via our Facebook Page  see ‘Notes 4’ at the top of the page and will also be available to purchase, later this week, via our website. Payment is via paypal and the cost is £7.50 which includes postage and packaging to any UK address. We are happy to sell calendars to our followers all over the world, so if you would like to buy one but you don’t live in the UK, please contact me advising how many copies you would like and where you live and I will let you know the additional postage cost. Thank you. All money raised from the sale of the calendars, once the printing cost has been deducted, will be given to the Little Princess Trust, to help fund ‘real hair’ wigs for children. Thank you for your continued support.

Image

I am honoured to have been chosen as a finalist in the Gloucestershire Women in Business Awards 2013, in the Communicator of the Year category, for the Pink Car Rally.  The winner will be announced after dinner, at the Awards Evening on 21st March. Tickets are still available, if you would like to come along http://www.digital-thisis.co.uk/gloucestershire/WIB2013/theevent.html but I would urge you to book them now, so that you don’t miss out on what looks like a fabulous evening!  Whilst it is an honour to be in the final four, it’s also very exciting that after 21st March, a lot more people will know about the Pink Car Rally and the Little Princess Trust charity.  It all helps to raise our profile and spread the word! Thank you.

We made it! We arrived in glorious sunshine too!

We made it! We arrived in glorious sunshine too!

We arrived at Land’s End on Sunday 19th August 2012, at the end of our epic six-day journey, where we travelled the length of Britain, raising awareness of (and funds for) the Little Princess Trust charity, which gives ‘real hair’ wigs to children who lose their hair, primarily through cancer treatments. We were exhausted, but exhilarated. New friendships had been formed, old friendships rekindled and, best of all, we had raised a total of £16,067.06 which would fund 45 children’s wigs!

That was supposed to be the FINAL rally; the culmination of a 5-year awareness-raising programme. BUT, for so many reasons (some of which I will share with you in a future Blog) there WILL BE a 2013 Pink Car Rally….. so please ‘save the dates’ – 7th & 8th September 2013. We will be travelling to Nottingham and ‘other destinations’ to be confirmed. Please follow us on Facebook www.facebook.com/pinkcarrally and on Twitter @pinkcarrally and @saligray to ensure you don’t miss any updates. If you know of anyone with a Pink Car, please mention the rally to them. Thank you.

This was the start of our trek across a mountain pass, which got narrower and steeper until we were driving through dense fog, with no mobile signal. We drove for 26 miles on this track, which delayed our journey by 2 hours! What a start to the rally!

We did it!!!

We did it!!!

Struggling to hold our banner, in the high wind and heavy rain. Yes, it's mid-August!

Struggling to hold our banner, in the high wind and heavy rain. Yes, it’s mid-August!

Well, we’re nearly at the end of February 2013 and I still haven’t managed to update my Blog! I had such great plans, prior to last year’s epic rally! I had upgraded my Nokia to an iPhone and invested in an iPad, to ensure I could write a daily Blog, updating our followers of our progress. In the event, both failed L or more to the point, I failed! I couldn’t connect to the internet, I locked myself out of Facebook and when I tried to re-connect, I was banned for some ridiculous amount of time, because I was trying to reconnect through equipment I hadn’t connected with before…. I could continue, but suffice to say I had to undergo a steep learning curve, whilst the other delightful Pinkies filled in the gaps for me!

So – huge apologies to everyone for the lack of communication.  Hopefully you all managed to keep abreast of things through Social Media?  Miranda from The Sunny Times http://www.thesunnytimes.co.uk/?s=pink+car+rally was an absolute God-send and made huge efforts to contact us along the way and then report on our progress.  Twitter was awash with sightings, although I don’t think we quite managed to ‘trend’.

The Rally was the most incredible journey – from the moment we left, in heavy rain, gale-force winds and (at the last minute) hail, having discovered that the A9 was closed and having to follow the satnav over the mountainous Highlands, to the moment we arrived in Land’s End, six days later, in glorious sunshine.  There are so many stories to tell – far too many for a Blog – but I have started writing them down and hope to produce them in some form or another, in due course.

I would like to thank everyone who supported the Pink Car Rally and the Special Pink Raffle, for your kindness and your generosity.  Together we raised an incredible £16, 067.06, which will fund 45 children’s wigs.

I will leave you with one story, which could perhaps be better described as a cautionary tale.  Having been diverted off the A9 onto a single-track mountain road with ‘passing places’, I wasn’t too concerned, until my SatNav instructed me to “Turn Right”.  Have you ever had one of those moments when every inch of your body is telling you NOT to do something…. and yet…. I didn’t know the road at all and the SatNav became pretty insistent…. so I obeyed and turned right. Well, the mountain road with ‘passing places’ may have been WITHIN my comfort zone, but I quickly realised that the track I had turned onto, which incidentally had LONG grass growing along the centre of it, was well OUTSIDE my comfort zone, especially as it was no wider than my car, showed no sign of passing places and was heading steeply upwards, into thick fog! However, a glance in my rear-view mirror affirmed that there was a complete convoy of pink vehicles behind me and NO place to turn round. I started to ‘glow’ (well, I am a woman!) when I looked at the unmade road ahead, complete with massive potholes and I wondered just how ‘low’ the suspension of the Pink Porsche was…. and whether the Smart would enjoy climbing the very steep mountain track….. I turned to my 15 year old navigator.

“Lissy” I hissed, “How many miles does the SatNav say we will be on this track for?”

“26”

And with that, the SatNav lost signal.  In fact, all method of communication was lost – there was no mobile phone signal and the fog was so dense that I could really only see the car behind me, and very little in front of me! I knew there was a sheer drop, to my left and there was no precise edge to the track! It was the longest 26 miles I have EVER driven and it delayed us by 2 hours.  I clearly remember arriving for coffee at Dornoch, two hours later than anticipated, and thinking “This is only the beginning of our six-day journey”.

It could only happen to me!  Honestly!  Ask any of my friends and they will tell you the same thing….

So, after the excitement of posting a FAB photo of Olivier Azam in Blossom, last night I attended an event at the ‘hallowed ground’ of Kingsholm – well, sadly I wasn’t actually ON the hallowed ground!  It was a lovely opportunity to network with others and to find out about the 1873 Club.  The new Director of Rugby, Nigel Davies, gave an inspirational address and whilst listening to him, I tried to deduce ‘exactly’ where his accent was from.  It sounded very familiar…. and I decided that he must be from the area where I grew up and so I mentioned this in an email which I sent to my cousin this morning.  To my surprise, not only was I correct, but she and her husband know him!  We do live in a very small world…..

So far, so good!  I now have a photo of Olivier in my car and a possible connection to Nigel himself…. So when I left the house at mid-day, to go to a meeting, I was feeling pretty pleased with the way things were going…..

After the meeting, I popped into a local store to buy some fizzy water (yes honestly! This girl lives a clean life!) and parked Blossom away from the other cars, to avoid ‘paintwork pings’ from inconsiderate drivers (does that happen to you too?).  Pushing my overfull trolley towards my car – or should I say… fighting to keep my overloaded trolley under control – I noticed that a rather large vehicle had parked next to me!  I felt rather frustrated that Blossom’s magnetism had struck once again, until I got closer and any frustration completely evaporated, as I read the words ‘Raging Bull’ on the bodywork. I have lived in Gloucester long enough to know that Raging Bull is Phil Vickery’s (retired Gloucester Rugby legend) company!  I slowly loaded the water into my car – partly because it was sooooo heavy and partly because I wanted to find out who was driving the beast, which Blossom seemed to have taken a liking to!

I returned my trolley (see I AM a good girl!) and when I turned back toward my car, someone was getting into the Raging Bull Mitsubishi.  I casually SPRINTED back to my car, in my high heeled boots and tried to smile calmly as I came face to face with….. the man himself!  I smiled, opened my mouth and gabbled away (eeek) finally saying “So please may I take your photo? It would be great to get both of the cars in too!” He kindly agreed, although I think out of sympathy for this mad-woman, rather than for any other reason – poor guy.

So – it’s all still good at this point!  But I have a problem – my very, very old Nokia phone does take photos, but I have no idea how to transfer them from my camera, to my computer.  In my car, I have my iPad – which I’m still getting to grips with!  But…. I know it has a camera! So, I merrily say “I’ll just get my iPad” and out comes my pretty pink and white spotted underutilised piece of modern technology…. and out came the sun!  I couldn’t see anything on the screen. I didn’t want to delay Phil, so I’m jigging around, trying to cast a shadow over the screen and finally, I can see him! “ 123 smile”, I call, manically!  Hahahaha – “Ok, let’s take one the other way round”, I say, professionally. I’m so pleased.  Two more FAB photos to tweet….. Phil retreats warily and I rush home – I can’t remember when I was last this excited (I know…..) I open the iPad immediately, I can’t wait to tweet these photos….. ummmmm…. where are the photos?  I check, I double check, I triple check – no photos! I don’t understand! I decide to take a photo of something in my kitchen.  123 click – the screen image vanishes and is replaced by the desktop screen! There was no ‘click’, no ‘shutter sound’….  I have learnt two things today…. Firstly, the little round button, on my iPad, doesn’t take photos! It takes me out of the programme I am in.  Secondly, I am a Plonker 😦

%d bloggers like this: