A couple of years ago the wonderful Birmingham Children’s Hospital (BCH) created The Big Hoot – where lots of colourful owls descended on the West Midlands for the summer. After the trail was finished they were auctioned off to raise much needed funds for BCH.
To most people, the word ‘sleuth’ means a private detective, but it’s also the collective noun for a group of bears! Bizarre but true.
Birmingham will bring both definitions together in the summer of the 2017 and the Sun Bear, the world’s smallest species of bear (now threatened with extinction) is the inspiration for a brand-new sculpture for this event.
These incredible creatures are sure to inspire creativity and generate plenty of fun for all you sleuth spotters on the trail! After which, the bears will be auctioned to raise valuable funds for Birmingham Children’s Hospital Charity.”
Now I’m still a bit disappointed that we were out of the country for the owl auction 2 years ago – made worse by the fact that some people I used to work with bought one for their back garden – so this year I’m hoping we can go to the auction as well as have days of endless fun going on a bear hunt!!
Last year my lovely friend Emily wrote a Guest Blog. Today she sent me an email with what you’re about to read, and asked if I wanted to share it. I couldn’t be more proud to share it with you all, and honoured that Em asked me to post it.
Lots of love to Emily – and Finlay. xx
What is strength?
An odd subject for a blog I grant you, but an issue that has been buzzing around my head just lately – begging to be addressed. So here we go…
I like to think I am a fairly strong person. Before children, when I was young, carefree and drinking wine with my work colleagues in various London bars, I used to think of strength as just physical. Can I lift that heavy box? Of course. Can I re-arrange a conference room, moving various chairs and tables? Hell yes! Can I renovate a dilapidated house, stripping wallpaper and knocking down walls? No problemo!
Strength was measured by exertion. My working hours were long, my social life packed. I thought I was busy. And then I had kids…
A 28 hour labour will make you reassess strength. Now I discovered that any physical tiredness I once felt before kids was nothing compared to the intense toil of motherhood. Sleepless nights, sore leaky boobs, the drain of the emotion that comes with being a mum. And the worry! How many situations of impending doom can one person imagine? What if he falls out of the open car window as we are driving along. Hang on, have I even put him in the car? What if a dog attacks him when we are at the local park? And on, and on. Endlessly. Now strength was measured mentally. Emotionally. Could I get through another day without sobbing at a really intense episode of Bob the Builder? Unlikely. Sometimes Bob’s deadlines are really cutting it fine!
Life with children is fun, full and hectic! Soft-play centres are my new drinking establishments of choice (often tea and a biscuit). Football on a Sunday my new overtime. My strength comes from my children, shuttling them to various activities, seeing them have a good time. Life is pretty great.
But this last year has tested my strength even more. Just twelve short months ago, a very close friend was dealt the most devastating of news. Her gorgeous little boy, Finlay was diagnosed with a Grade 4 Glioblastoma Brain Tumour. Fin has gone through brain surgery twice, has endured chemotherapy, radiotherapy and a clinical trial. He is about to embark on a second round of gruelling radiotherapy and he is, quite simply, my new hero. My new definition of strength.
Because throughout this horrible journey, Fin has been truly amazing. He is brave – overcoming his fear of cannulas; funny – ‘Why can’t I eat white bread!?’; and truly inspirational – he has raised over £35K including gift aid for Birmingham Children’s Hospital and Brain Tumour Research and also broken a Guinness World Record! And still he goes to school, trains for his black belt in karate and continues to be a kind and caring little boy. Oh, and did I mention the Pride of Britain nomination? Put simply – He rocks!
Of course, there have been dark moments. This is hell on earth and any parent’s worst nightmare, but during this most horrific of times there have also been moments of sheer beauty – ones that will be treasured forever. Acts of kindness, generosity and friendship that have gone above and beyond. People are good, and I have seen that goodness in abundance.
Just recently I asked my lovely Facebook friends to donate just £1 each to try and boost Fin’s fundraising to over the £30k mark. And I was staggered at the response. Friends I hadn’t spoken to in years donated. Colleagues who don’t know Fin, but who know me, digging deep, helping him to smash his target! Thank you my lovely ones – your kindness is appreciated more than you know. And this got me thinking again about strength and what it really means.
Because ultimately, more and more, I realise that strength comes from love. I worked hard at my career, because I loved my job. I got through a gruelling birth and the pitfalls of parenting because I love my children. And our love for Finlay makes him strong. And he is loved more than he will ever know.
There is still a long way to go for Fin on his journey. Every day brings extreme highs and lows – like the worst rollercoaster in the entire world. Ever. But his amazing family will continue to fight for him, because they love him. As friends, we will continue to support them, because we love them. And if you are reading this, you can help too. You can #fundthefight to help find a cure for horrible brain cancer, and make sure that no other family, no other lovely children like Fin, have to prove how amazingly strong they are.
You can donate any amount to Fin’s fund here and you can follow his journey on his Facebook page.
A couple of weeks ago we found out that Finlay was going to need further brain surgery – and just a few days before the big day – so we gave him the choice of whether we postponed, or went ahead without him. The mature, sensible, lovely boy that he is, he recognised how much work had gone into the preparation and told us to go ahead anyway. So on Thursday 30 April Fin had a 7 hour operation. It went really well and he was excited that he could be video linked in to the Operation Teddy Bear event.
The night before we were picking up bears from the various places around the Alvechurch area where they had been stored – my children were literally drowning in bears:
Then on Sunday May 3rd it was an early – and wet – start at Alvechurch Cricket Club. If we’d arranged for Guinness to come out and witness the event we would have had to pay them a few thousand pounds – and we wanted that money to go to the charities (Birmingham Children’s Hospital and Brain Tumour Research) – so we went down the route of providing loads of evidence to support our attempt instead. This meant independent witnesses were there every step / bear of the way and everything was photographed and videoed.
So – off we went!! At this point the bears could sit on plastic to stop their bottoms getting wet – those later on weren’t so comfy!
I laid 500 (as in put them down, not laid like a chicken!)
and other members of the Op Teddy Bear team did too:
All through the first few hours we were able to FaceTime with Fin in his (dry, warm) hospital bed!!
We broke the UK record of 1,996 within a few hours, and as we approached the existing world record of 4,041 we found that the wifi was down at Fin’s hospital and so we couldn’t get him to watch live – but we photographed and videoed it all for him. In Fin’s absence, a little boy called Oscar – who was treated by Birmingham Children’s Hospital for a life threatening heart condition as a baby – laid the world record breaking bear! (Cue loads of sobbing from me and the rest of the team!!)
But we weren’t going to stop at just scraping the record – we wanted to SMASH it – so on we went!
There was a steady stream of wonderful people volunteering to lay bears – and a huge queue of people to help ‘feed’ the layers with bears! It was the Alvechurch Picnic In The Park in the neighbouring park, so there were loads of locals to come and help and watch and it had the most amazing feel of community spirit.
Onwards we went…….bear after bear after bear. They had to be bears, not any other kind of stuffed toy – and they had to be touching at all times. I took my role as bear police very seriously (I suspect there will be children in the school playground this week pointing at me saying ‘there’s that nasty lady who shouted at us to keep away from the bears’!!) but we couldn’t risk the line being broken.
Then, there was some real excitement – someone really important had arrived at the attempt. IT WAS FINLAY!!!! The whole ‘wifi is down’ had been a ruse, in fact the Church family were bringing Finlay out of hospital! So 3 days after 7 hour brain surgery, he’d done so well, he’d been allowed out – and he was able to come and join us. Cue LOADS more weeping from me and the rest of the team!!
He was well enough to lay some bears – here he is with one of our independent witnesses, having hit the 7,000 marker!
and here he is ‘feeding’ bears to his Mum!
Still we were laying bears – those that had been donated over recent weeks by generous people all over the country – but also brought along on the day.
We’d even sourced a generator and some floodlights in case we needed to keep laying after it went dark, and were on our 3rd pair of independent witnesses!!
But then – the end was in sight. And we’d done it – laid every bear and completely annihilated the existing world record!! Obviously I was weeping far too much to actually take any photos as Fin’s siblings laid the last few bears and then Fin himself laid the final bear………
[Edited to add – thankfully my husband wasn’t such an emotional wreck and took photos of Fin’s younger siblings laying the penultimate bear – and Fin with the final one – phew!!!]
These are photos from our phones, so not the best quality in the world, but I think give a really good feel for the day. It was an amazing day to be part of – and really highlighted how much the entire community is behind Fin and his family. All of the evidence will be sent off to Guinness for them to check and hopefully issue Fin his certificate – and getting in the printed edition of the Guinness Book of World Records itself is his dream.
But the record attempt was only part of it – the main reason was to raise awareness and funds for Birmingham Children’s Hospital and Brain Tumour Research – so if you feel inspired to donate, the Just Giving pages are still accepting!
It’s now the morning after the day before. My husband and I (and I expect other people around the village) are struggling to walk today (my Fitbit shows I walked 12 miles yesterday – I could have just done the Birmingham 10k – which was also on yesterday – twice instead!!). The longest time I sat down in the 14 hours we were there yesterday was for a wee!! We also have 15,534 wet teddy bears to dry and distribute to the various charities who have supported us – but pretty soon it won’t be ‘All About the Bears‘ anymore……………..
The category for The Gallery over on the Sticky Fingers blog this week is ‘one day in May’- and this is one day in May that I will never, ever forget!
I am not blogging as much as normal at the moment, as pretty much all spare waking minutes – and some sleeping ones – are being taken up with Operation Teddy Bear.
I’ve mentioned before about taking bear selfies and it would still be GREAT if you could do them and share on social media with the #opteddybear hashtag – and if any of you are / know a celeb – please rope them in too!! Join the motley crew of Olly Murs, Sir Alex Ferguson, Angela Griffin et al!
From the outset I need to declare an interest in this week’s theme! I’ve known Finlay since he was a baby – and am heavily involved in organising Operation Teddy Bear – to the point that I’m dreaming about teddies!!
Actually I blogged about Fin last year – when the Gallery theme was ‘Spectacular‘.
Since then Fin has continued with his treatment – and living the life a 10 year old boy should with school, fun with family and friends, and some of his favourite sports.
He’s also passionate about raising money for both Birmingham Children’s Hospital and Brain Tumour Research – which we are supporting with Operation Teddy Bear – as well as trying to get in the Guinness Book of World Records.
The support from people far and wide has been astonishing – from donations of teddy bears and cash – to #opteddybear selfies on social media – from people who know Fin – and others, including some celebs! We’ve still got almost a month until the event on May 3rd – so any support that you can give would be massively welcome. The Just Giving site is here.
I’m off to scour the charity shops of the Lake District for teddies whilst we’re away for Easter!
So – here are the Price family with their #opteddybear pictures:
And the construction company we own also managed some ‘Builder Bears’!!!
Please pop across and see other people’s teddy bears:
The theme over on The Sticky Fingers Blog this week for the photo gallery is ‘spectacular’. Which got me to thinking about what photo I could include that summed this up – stunning views, amazing fireworks, fabulous fancy dress – but then this photo popped into my head…..
This is Finlay – a friend of ours who’s 10 years old. Back in June he was admitted to Birmingham Children’s Hospital with a suspected abscess on his brain. Following brain biopsy surgery he was diagnosed with a malignant brain tumour. He had surgery to remove the tumour and has had a course of radiotherapy treatment – which the photo itself shows. The webbing is a solid mask that holds him completely still on the bed whilst the treatment takes place. This is spectacular in terms of the amazing work the doctors are doing – and spectacular in terms of Fin being happy for this photo to be shown to people to see what he is going through. He’s now undergoing a series of chemotherapy and clinical trial treatments to prevent the tumour from coming back.
Whilst going through this the remarkable Fin and his amazing family have been raising funds for Birmingham Children’s Hospital with Fin doing a 2.5km run the other weekend (having taken his 5th day of chemo in the morning before setting off). I am sure he’d appreciate some sponsorship – and you can read about his journey here.
Not sure I can think of anything else that sums up spectacular more appropriately.
Last Friday lots of people around the country were taking part in the Macmillan Cancer Support’s Big Coffee Morning – and I decided to jump on the bandwagon. Macmillan were really helpful to my husband’s Mum when she was suffering with cancer – and to lots of friends who’ve had their own personal battles too. I decided it could be a dual fundraiser, as some close family friends have a 10 year old who is fundraising for Birmingham Children’s Hospital who are currently supporting him through treatment for a brain tumour.
My fabulous parents arrived armed with an urn and some extra mugs, the most wonderful ‘Very Smart Cookie Company‘ were providing the cakes and I could waft about in my new clothes purchased this week with a personal shopping experience at John Lewis (there’s another blog post in there soon – bet you can’t wait?!)
Lots of my very lovely friends came and ate cake, drank hot drinks (decaf tea, normal tea, peppermint tea, coffee, decaf coffee, red milk, green milk, blue milk, sugar, sweetener – we were practically a branch of Starbucks!!) and were suitably generous – raising a whopping £210 to share between the charities.
But aside from the fundraising – it was just a really lovely morning – I know I’m biased, but I have some very nice friends.
A big thank you to VSCC for not only the wonderful cakes – but also these fab photos!
P.S. If you’d like to donate to Fin’s fundraising for the children’s cancer unit at Birmingham Children’s Hospital – then you can click here. xx