Just over twelve months ago I saw poster to “Wipe Out Waste” and raise money for a charity called Ellie’s Fund Brain Tumour Trust – http://www.elliesfund.com
I saw a poster and ignored it. The friend whose Facebook wall I saw it on is a bit of a champion of causes (sorry my lovely!! Hope you still love me) and I gave it a cursory glance.
I saw the same poster a few days later. This time it was on the wall of a different Facebook friend who tends not to share too much. This time I looked. It was asking people to collect baby wipe packets.
I have three children, 5 years and under at that time, and have been throwing away my empty packets for the best part of 6 years. “I can collect a few” I thought but my memory is useless (three young children do that to you!) so what could I do to remind myself to collect them?
Then I was inspired. I set up a Facebook event for a month. It would sit on the side of my FB page and it would remind me and hopefully by the end of the month I would have got it into my forgetful mind to collect them. I duly invited all my local mummy friends to my event and thought maybe just maybe, I’d get about 50 friends collecting with me.
I hit the go live button at about 10pm on 23rd February 2012. By midnight on the 24th February I was sobbing watching the 2,000th person confirm that they would “attend” the event. Another 40,000 had been invited!
I discovered about six months later that 23rd February was also the anniversary of Ellie’s funeral. Somehow that made me think that fate was playing a part.
Over the course of the next few weeks the numbers rocketed, the work involved became more apparent and the packets came in.
By now I had “met” Ellie’s mum, Heather, via FB, and felt extremely guilty that I had caused her all this extra work. All these emails needing answers, labels needed downloading and sending out electronically, all these people with questions that we didn’t, as such have the answers to. I’m sure that the trustees at EFBTT were cursing me and my flash of event-creating inspiration. I’m pretty sure Heather was wondering who on earth this total stranger thought she was taking it upon herself to cause all this upheaval. I know I had pangs of terrible guilt that I hadn’t thought to ask first simply because I didn’t think it would grow so big in such a small space of time.
What it did do though was get people talking, get me talking to Heather, hearing her heartbreaking story and praying that I never had to go through it, get me looking into brain tumours and the effects it has on people. It has also introduced me to some wonderful people. People who carry on despite brain tumours. People who carry one despite loved one’s being taken from them far too early.
What it also did was get people collecting their empty baby wipe packets. We got organised, set up a page after the event ended – https://www.facebook.com/elliesfundbabywipecollection – that has attracted interest far and wide across the country, set up an answers section that we updated as people asked new ones, recruited a core team of wonderful volunteers and we got collecting.
The people collecting set themselves a target over time and we eventually came to the mutual agreement that we were aiming for £10,000 by the first anniversary. We smashed through it three weeks early and actually surpassed £11,000 on the first anniversary! When you think that only 70p of every £100 spent on cancer research goes towards brain tumour research £11,000 is phenomenal. When you think that each single babywipe packet “only” gets 2p that is also phenomenal – over 500,000 packets kept out of landfill.
What this astounding collective spirit also did was it made me discover a reason to be me. I was already a wife and mother but, apart from that, I had no purpose. Brain tumour awareness is now my purpose. I tweet about it, I talk about it, I tweet some more and I get others to tweet and talk about it. I wear silly hats on wear a hat day (I did take it off as a mark of respect when a funeral procession went past last year!) and I wear an EFBTT t-shirt and hoodie even when not doing a fundraiser and I class Heather as a good friend. A very good friend. She, Ellie, and her family are inspirational. If Ellie could raise £25,000 whilst fighting a brain tumour battle then the least I can do is raise awareness!