Charity events which travel no further than the gym are increasingly popular, particularly with the impending Olympics driving more and more people to improve their fitness. When I found out that a family friend in the Army had helped row the notional distance from Afghanistan to Britain, I wanted to do something similar with the University of Leicester Boat Club. We wouldn’t row from A to B but would row continually for 24 hours on campus instead. Our good cause would be the Ewing’s Sarcoma Research Trust (ESRT) which had been founded by Matt Short, a fellow third year law student. Such an event would make a big impact on the university, generate good publicity and, most importantly, raise much-needed funds for ESRT. 80% of the money raised would go directly to ESRT with the rest supporting the underfunded boat club.
The plan was to keep four rowing machines working continuously for 24 hours starting at 10 am Tuesday 21st February 2012. We managed to convince the University to grant permission to hold the event, on conditions which kept both Matt and I sleep-deprived all night. While we were planning, publicising and organising this event, we were ably assisted by three members of staff from the Students’ Union who helped us put together everything we needed for the day, and publicise the event and the charity.
Two of these members of staff got so involved in the event they felt compelled to take a turn on the rowing machines which was fantastic, and generated a lot of interest from other staff.
The commitment from the volunteer rowers was phenomenal. Each one rowed for a total of two hours, and I personally found it a very surreal experience to be exercising at four o’clock in the morning on a deserted campus while watching Disney films. Other volunteers manned a stall during the day to sell merchandise and explain about ESRT. Everyone helped out by walking around the university collecting donations and we also had an online donation page.
Blaring music, sweaty rowers and a prime position on campus helped realise some generous contributions.
Encouraged by many supporters, the challenge was successfully completed without incident (although there were some minor disagreements when choosing the next film). The total distance covered was approximately 1,220 km which is equivalent from Leicester to Geneva and then doing a couple of quick laps around the lake.
Highlights included getting a re-tweet from Olympic rowing legend Sir Matthew Pinsent and a shout-out on Radio 1 Xtra from Trevor Nelson.
We raised over £1,500 from online and on-the-day donations. The charity also received a considerable publicity boost thanks to the university website and local press coverage. Impressed by our efforts, the university now hopes that it will become an annual occasion.
Treasurer, University of Leicester Boat Club