During the past four and a half years the majority of the work of Thinking of Oscar has been done by David and myself, with invaluable support and contributions from our trustees and advisors. This is not surprising since the cause is driven by our own determination to create a legacy for Oscar and to find something positive out of an event which, quite frankly, has turned our world upside down, broken our hearts, fractured friendships, shattered our trust in life and irrevocably transformed our perspective on the world. In the blink of an eye we lost our little boy. In our worst nightmares we had not seriously contemplated the possibility that we might not bring him home again. Suddenly that nightmare was our life. Now, whilst Oscar has lost the opportunity to live his own life, we are left to do something worthwhile with our own. We owe it to him to do just that.
Since Oscar’s death we have been powered by an unnatural energy to get stuff done. In the early years it served as a distraction, to numb our pain. Now, it is the default for what we do when our other children have gone to bed. There have been times when it has felt like we were pushing water up hill. On occasion I would question our validity. I wondered whether we were kidding ourselves. Could we really make a difference? Then we started to work on our 5th anniversary fundraising campaign, TOO500, a cycle ride beginning at The Oxford Children’s Hospital, then visiting 5 of the UK’s best-known children’s hospitals and covering 500 miles in five days in June 2019. Our goal, to raise awareness of the need to invest in child health and to raise £500,000. We knew that to maximise the value of this campaign we should not be doing it on our own. This needed to be a professionally run event. It needed to be a ride which was tempting to take part in, interesting, safe and fun. And so, after much research we engaged the services of Jim and Andy, of Zing Event Management. All of a sudden, our team was growing. Perhaps serendipitously Corporation Pop then came into our lives. David had met their CEO, Dom Raban, and discovered a shared passion for improving outcomes in child health. Out of the blue Dom volunteered the services of his team to build an event website for us. We are extremely grateful for that generosity and the beautiful job that they have done for us. The next step was to engage PR and Communications support of our own. With local and national interest, it was going to be essential and so Fortitude Communications joined our team.
All of this growth has not come about without a share of worry. It’s one thing sitting at our kitchen table together, updating our website, working with the hospitals on campaigns, pulling together the squads of people as we have done each year to raise money at The Blenheim Palace Triathlon. With contracts in place we had a new responsibility to the charity and our donors. After much deliberation and analysis, we decided that it was time to take an informed leap of faith and just run hard. And so www.too500.co.uk came to be.
At the same time, one by one the hospitals were coming on board. Royal Manchester, Great Ormond Street, Alder Hey, Birmingham and Sheffield all agreed to collaborate and work with us on this unique project. At each hospital we liaise with their marketing and communications contacts, as you would expect, for local recruitment of riders and promotion of the ride. We have clinical leads in each institution to ensure that there is going to be a suitable project for us to invest in once the funds have been raised. We also connected with all of the hospital charity groups to ensure that we are aligned to their priorities and that we have visibility within each organisation. A few weeks ago, we arranged for all of the hospitals to get together on a conference call in order that we could brief them collectively and seek consensus on how funds raised would be spent. Looking back on it I don’t know why we were surprised by this call but at the time we were quite taken aback by the enthusiasm and level of support that they were offering us. Prestigious organisations represented by clinicians with brains the size of planets and they believed in our mission. They recognised value in what we could achieve as a collective. There was an assumption that we would meet or exceed our fundraising objective. The call came to an end and we looked across the room at each other. We’d better just get on and make it happen then, we said.
You can follow our progress via www.thinkingofoscar.com, www.too500.co.uk, and @thinkingofoscar on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.