Well, that was certainly an interesting evening!
I write this having just made my debut on a nationwide livestream event alongside a host of celebrities, representing Carers UK as part of ITV’s Text Santa campaign. Here comes the back-story….
Earlier this year, I decided to do something slightly outrageous for charity. I didn’t want to dye my hair pink; I like it brown, so obviously I decided to Kayak across a small but notoriously choppy section of the Atlantic Ocean instead. Having never attempted a crossing of this nature before in my life, I was going to take to the high seas in a one man boat.
Personally I’ve always believed it’s a bit cheeky to ask for sponsorship for something mundane: “Me aunties cousins dad is lightly jogging round the block for a charity you’ve never heard of before …gissa tenner yeah?’ In my view, if you want people to dig deep, you have to promise them the opportunity to see you embarrassed, inconvenienced and quite possibly incapacitated by some death-defying act of madness. It really does work wonders for your grand total!
One of the reasons I chose Carers UK is that I was a young secondary carer for my dad. He struggled with a condition called Akinetic Rigid Syndrome for many years before passing away in 2000: So I guess I did it for him; and for my mum who dedicated her life to looking after the man she loved – in sickness and in health, for better and worse and all that it entailed.
The kayaking conditions that week were awful but a successful crossing was made and Carers UK did a great job helping to promote my challenge – it even went viral getting 100’s of likes and shares on their Facebook page! It’s massively humbling when someone you have never even met sponsors you because they understand what you are doing and why.
To help you to understand the same, a little background…
Carers UK provide advice and support – both practical and emotional – to people who are caring for relatives or friends and receive no financial reward for doing so. They currently support over 6 million carers every day. Their key driver at the moment is to expand their care line offering, a round-the-clock helpline for carers who need advice, assistance, or just a sympathetic ear when the job gets tough.
This is what some of the £5.5m raised from Text Santa will go towards facilitating, so well done if you chipped in: More people to call when you are at your lowest and most lonely as a carer, more friendly voices on the end of the phone and an understanding ear for the times when you just need to vent. From personal experience I can tell you that caring is as difficult, frustrating and painful as it is rewarding and life-affirming and unpaid carers almost never receive the acknowledgement they deserve for the work they do. By choosing Carers UK as one of their featured charities, Text Santa aimed to heighten awareness of their cause and help them to achieve their goals.
So – how did I end up on the celebrity couch being streamed across the nation?
Well – following the success of my Paddle and after establishing an immediate rapport when I met the Carers UK team this summer, I was invited to represent the charity on the Live Streaming of the Show, presented by Darren Jeffries and Matt Littler, who play Max and O.B. on Hollyoaks. After arriving with my designated travel buddy (quite fittingly the lady who accompanied me on the trip out to Fuerteventura for the challenge) I was taken to the Green Room and she was deposited in the studio audience with the rest of the Carers contingent.A slight miscommunication meant that at the last minute I was thrown under the spotlight solo rather than with an official Charity Rep but after a robust briefing I was able to muddle through.
A quick dusting of powder later & I was ready to be whisked down to studio 2 escorted by a pleasant yet flustered lady barking into a head set. Happily – to disperse the nerves whilst waiting for the interview I was able to chew the fat with Christine Bleakley, post for a photo with Sean Ryder, chastise Paddy McGuinness for being late & say Hi to numerous other celebrities all whom tolerated my cheeky tourist demeanour.
Then it was lights, camera, action!
All in all I was on air for 3 minutes. Not much time to convey how utterly essential it is that the millions of people across the UK dedicating their lives to looking after loved ones get the support they need & deserve.
But I gave it a damn good go…
If you want to learn more about the work that Care UK do and how you can support them, please visit their website at carersuk.org