People talk about fate and happening to be in the right place at the right time and to be honest, I’m not a huge believer in these things; but when Simon Lillywhite from Sebastian's Action Trust called and we invited him in to set up a stand and talk to our people about the work of the charity it sort of changed my mind - a little anyway! That initial call was back in 2015 and we haven’t looked back since …
Royal Mail International is a big employer in the Slough area – across our two sites close to Heathrow we have around 3,000 people. We get calls fairly frequently from charities or companies who want to come in and speak to our people or set up a stall in our canteen and wherever possible (and of course in line with Royal Mail Group’s vision, mission and values), we try to allow these as they provide something different to offer our people during their breaks – be that sales of perfume or whatever. Our philosophy is to let companies give it a try and if it works for them that’s great.
Getting back to SAT and Simon. He set up his stand and provided information about what SAT do and had some items for sale and a donation box etc. He attracted a fair amount of interest, but the key was that he got into conversation with our International Operations Director, Mike Sibley, who immediately felt that he wanted to do something to support SAT – and it had to be something big.
Mike and I visited The Bluebells to see the fantastic facilities and the great work that SAT do first hand and it really struck a chord. Mike said during the visit that he felt we could help out by raising perhaps £5,000 during 2016 to help and the challenge was on …
Being a qualified fitness instructor, Mike decided he wanted to take on a real, personal challenge for himself; while raising as much cash as possible for SAT and the Cyclathon was born. We held our first event in 2016 with Mike and John - one of our team of Engineers - riding spinning bikes for 24hrs. We did this very publicly on our operational floor and it attracted massive support from all our people who got so involved that they jumped aboard what were supposed to be reserve bikes in case of mechanical failure and peddaled alongside Mike and John. The support and engagement with our people was overwhelming, they donated cash and cheered Mike and John along. Our suppliers provided the bikes and food and drinks to keep the guys going through the 24hrs. The event raised £10,000 in total. Amazing.
Jane Gates, the charity's Chief Executive, and one of the families they support joined us when we presented the cheque and it was a very moving event at which we again involved as many of our people as possible. Royal Mail featured the event in a short film they produced and also in our internal newspaper which is posted to around 160,000 people each month. It was great recognition of the efforts put in by everyone involved.
Mike decided we should make Cyclathon an annual event, so in 2017 we did it all again; but this time Mike set our target at £15,000. This time, we got more bikes from our suppliers and we got support from Royal Mail through matched funding and cash to purchase teeshirts etc. We also got some cross-training machines in for people who couldn’t use the bikes. To raise extra cash and involve even more of our people, we held ever-popular food sales prior to Cyclathon and also held a raffle drawn on the day of the event. The support from our people was nothing short of spectacular. We had seven spinning bikes and two cross-trainers with people covering hour long stints which were completely filled across the 24hrs. It was an amazing feeling to be there and be part of it. Thanks to the generosity of our people we hit our £15,000 target.
Of course, we are well into 2018 now. We have already held a couple of planning meetings for Cyclathon 2018 and Mike has set us a very ambitious target of £25,000 to be raised this year. We have a timeline in place and we have plans to take some of our people to see The Bluebells in May, so that they can see for themselves where the funds they are raising are being put to such great use to support the families. We have secured 12 spinning bikes for this year’s event already, so we can involve even more people. We have already held a food sale and an International Women’s Day event, plus we ask for donations from the companies who set up stalls in our canteen and we are on track as I write this. It is going to be mega this year!
The whole point of me writing this blog is to first of all recognise that the work of SAT is absolutely amazing and essential for our local community, but secondly to let other people/companies know that we have benefitted enormously (and of course, you can too) from supporting SAT in terms of engaging with our people across all boundaries to work together for a fantastic, local and very worthwhile cause.
We have been supported all along by Simon and the whole team at SAT who are clearly enormously grateful for the efforts our people are making. It is a real pleasure working with the SAT team who support with all the materials we need to hold these events and with their time, which allows us to concentrate our efforts on getting our people involved and engaged and raising awareness of the great work SAT do and of course, raising the funds to support that work.
So, if you’re reading this blog and you’ve been thinking about getting involved personally or as a company with SAT, don’t hesitate – do it now. The charity itself is amazing and does such great work, but they are also so supportive of their fundraisers and volunteers who can do as much or as little as they can spare the time or resources to do. Referring back and linking (vaguely admittedly!) to my opening comments about fate etc, this one of those win-win situations – another phrase I don’t usually believe in too much!
International Operations Communications and Engagement Lead