Life brings us many challenges and I’ve always thought it’s not about the actual challenge but it’s how you deal with it. Challenges can often be life-changing and actually turn into positives even if we don’t see that when we are faced by what may seem insurmountable at first.
The families we support face many challenges, as did I when my son was diagnosed with cancer at just 5 years old. To say things were easy would be a real dis-service to those who are undergoing their own particular childhood cancer journey. It was tough, and I mean REALLY tough!
Emotionally, physically, financially and every other way you can think but we came through it and years later I say that I wouldn’t have chosen to undergo that journey (you’d have to be crazy to choose it) BUT it was life-changing and it certainly gave me a fresh pair of eyes to view life with. I don’t have ‘bad’ days, I have ‘challenging’ days and I am forever grateful that I got to keep my beautiful boy. I never forget the times when I feared that I wouldn’t see his milestone birthdays, GCSE’s, leaving school, growing up. This drives me to want to help those who have similar fears as their child undergoes treatment. If I can give reassurance or help in some small way then my job is not in vain.
We’ve had a few challenges ourselves at the CCPA office the past few weeks.
Our sponsor for our ‘More Tea Vicar’ Tea Tent pulled out at the last minute leaving us without tea, coffee, cakes, milk or sugar: meaning it was impossible to make refreshments for the thousands of people who visit the show each year. At the time I was working away from the office and so after a frantic text Amanda, our Marketing Manager & Fundraiser, put an appeal out across social media for a replacement donor.
What followed was an explosion of Facebook messages, phone call and texts; in-fact I found it difficult to keep up with the response. By the end of the day we had a hugely generous sponsor in the Shaylor Foundation – their donation not only enabled us to buy stocks for our ‘More Tea Vicar’ tent, it also allowed us to purchase our own tables and other items which will be used for events such as our Pop Up Shop.
We also had an amazing gathering of a group 23 Tesco stores supporting us with tea, coffee, squash and sugar after Deb Green from the Stafford store had put a group appeal out. Deb is already a big supporter of CCPA but she really went the extra mile for us. It was great to meet the Community Champions – they really are a very valuable job.
Wells Farm Dairy supplied us with enough milk to make all our teas and coffees that weekend.
We also connected with local WI groups who have offered to support us in future.
I think this proves my point that had we not faced the challenge of losing our sponsor then we wouldn’t have connected with all these wonderful people and organisations who I hope now know about our work and how we help families facing many challenges themselves.
The next set of challenges came at the Food Festival itself. Friday night saw us setting up our gazebo in the dark (if anyone has ever tried that, it’s a challenge!!). And although Saturday didn’t provide any difficulties and we had a fabulous day Sunday presented us with torrential rain! We still set up in the hopes that the rain would ease; it didn’t! We lost a day’s trading and had to admit defeat.
However, the weather forecast for Bank Holiday Monday showed no rain, hurrah! We arrived on the Monday morning to see CCPA Star Irene dressed in her vintage dress and pinny hanging on to the gazebo like Mary Poppins!! Luckily, we managed to prevent Irene and the gazebo sailing across the field and another CCPA Star, Nigel, drove back to Stafford to collect a more stable gazebo. I must admit, it felt a little like the spirit of the Blitz as we carried on serving teas and coffees, unperturbed by the howling wind!
Despite the weather causing a few disruptions we still managed to raise around £400 at the Lichfield Food Festival. Although the money raised is very important to us it is also the opportunity for us to connect with families who we may be able to help (and we met a few at the Festival) and the businesses and individuals who may support our work in the future. Without our presence at events like this we would miss those golden conversations with families who may need a helping hand or a chat to ease their own childhood cancer journey. No event is a wasted one if we connect with those who need us.
We had another challenge only a few days later!
We launched International Childhood Cancer Month on 1 September with a huge party for the families we support.
I received a message from one of our families saying that her Husband would not be able to attend the party after all. He was at the other side of the country working away and had the car and car seats with him! Taxi quotes for ‘Mum’ and 5 children to get to the party and back were astronomical. The family have had their Summer holiday plans thwarted by their child’s treatment so there was no way that we’d allow that family to miss out on more fun! Our CCPA Stars volunteers came to the rescue like the true stars they are. They provided car seats and transport and everyone was able to enjoy the party after all! It was so important to allow that family who have felt isolated all Summer to join others for a few hours of fun.
These special times in a safe and supportive environment really brighten up the difficult days. To an outsider it may be ‘just’ a children’s party but to our families it is a chance to relax and connect with peers whilst the children are free to play like children do whether they have a life-threatening illness or not. The feedback from the families who came to the party has been fabulous and the children are still talking about it a week later! This makes all the hard work and effort worthwhile and we couldn’t do it without the help from our donors and volunteers who allow us to make a difference.
As we head towards our Pop Up Shop from 18-23 September I’m sure there may be a few more challenges, but, like the families we support, we’re resilient and we don’t let these challenges get us down for too long!
CCPA Operations Manager