Monday, 22 June 2015

Flying across the Tyne for Cats Protection

This post has been written by Rob Gillie, Regional Development Manager, Yorkshire and the North East of Cats Protection

The East Northumberland and Gateshead & District Branches of Cats Protection have joined forces to raise funding to support their work in the north east of England.

The partnership between the two branches started last year when branch volunteers came together to collect donations at performances of Cats, the musical, at the Theatre Royal in Newcastle (see a photo of the volunteers here).

Earlier this year Joanne McPherson, Regional Fundraising Manager, identified an ideal fundraising opportunity by taking places in the Zip Slide UK event on 6-7 June.

Both branches promoted places at the event on their Facebook pages and their websites. The branches attracted supporters to sign up for the event, including some branch volunteers but most were people who wanted to support the branches by taking part in an adrenaline-filled activity. Each ‘zip slider’ agreed to raise at least £80 for the branch (although in reality the average raised was more than double this figure).

Joanne persuaded me to take part too! I also signed up my daughter, Rachel, to take part and provide me with much needed moral support.

On the weekend of the event a zip wire was attached to the Newcastle side of the iconic Tyne Bridge and stretched across the River Tyne to the Gateshead bank of the river. The zip wire dropped 30 metres and was 300 metres long and participants would be flying across the Tyne at around 25 miles per hour.

Volunteers were on hand at the weekend to welcome participants and they were joined by Regional Fundraising Managers Joanne McPherson and Emily Casson. Joanne’s partner, Norm, was the photographer for the day to capture the heroic feats.

Rachel and I arrived on Saturday amid high winds and ominous cloudy skies. This matched my mood… I was not looking forward to the event as I am terrified of heights!

Fundraisers getting ready to take the plunge
Rob (third from right) and other fundraisers getting ready to take the plunge
I was kitted up in my harness and hard-hat and walked to the top of the bridge to take my turn. On reaching the front of the queue I had to climb a step ladder to be attached to the zip wire before sitting on the hand rail of the bridge with my legs dangling towards the Tyne below. I just thought ‘What on earth am I doing here?’

At the allotted time I was told to push my shoulders forward and then I was away, with a sudden jerk as the wire took up my weight, followed by the sensation of flying before landing with a jolt at the platform below. The feeling of flying through the air was fantastic, although I have to admit I tried not to look down!

Rachel said that I was as white as a sheet when I finished. But when I heard that someone had dropped out in the afternoon I actually agreed to do the slide again with Rachel and CP supporters. I am terrified of heights so if I can do this anyone can!

Emma Seed zip wiring across the River Tyne for Cats Protection
Fundraiser Emma Seed; photo courtesy of editpostphotography.co.uk 
In total 30 people signed up to raise much needed funds for Cats Protection. The amount raised so far is a staggering £5,407 plus an additional Gift Aid of £990.83 – and there’s still more to come!

Prior to the event two women dropped out as they found out they were expecting (what some people will do to avoid a zip slide!) but their sponsors were happy for the donations to still go to CP. Two supporters from the Wear Valley & Darlington Branch were able to take up these places at short notice and managed to raise an amazing £718 between them.

This is the first time that CP has taken part in an event like this in the North East. Due to the success places have been booked for the next event which will be on 31 October. This coincides with the week of National Black Cat Day (Cats Protection’s annual celebration of black and black-and-white cats) so if you would like to dress up as a black cat and fly across the Tyne please get in touch by emailing Joanne McPherson on joanne.mcpherson@cats.org.uk

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