Ok I'll admit I lost my mojo it's hard for to admit that especially as I've committed to the biggest challenge I'll probably undertake but fingers crossed it's on it's way back and I'm ready to get this challenge on the road.
You may (or may not) remember back in May that I said I would do my utmost to raise £100,000 for The Lullaby Trust in one year completing the challenge in September 2015 for Alexander's 10th Birthday.
The challenge is due to start next month and I'd love to start it with an awareness campaign on Social Media. A selfie or such like with a donation by text to our campaign, I know it's been done before but they always seem so successful I'd love to give it a shot.
I'm worried I'd be lying if I said I wasn't but I am determined and I will do my very very best to keep this campaign going but I know I am going to need so much help. Would you consider holding a fundraiser for me? It doesn't have to be huge just a gathering at home for friends, a tea party, a cake sale, anything that will help boost our total it is all going to help massively.
I'll make my apologies now for bombarding your Facebook and twitter pages but I'm not sure I have to words to express how important this research is to me and all those parents out there who put a healthy toddler to bed and then lost them to this silent killer. I'm not sure I can just carry on as normal knowing there is someone willing to undertake this investigation into Sudden Unexplained Death in Childhood, someone trying to give us answers, without doing my bit to get it underway.
Please if you think you can help us in any way at all no matter how big or small you think it is I'd love to hear from you I really am going to need all the help I can get for this one.
Here it is the annual Mr and Mrs photo from Alexander's Charity Ball !!!
What an absolutely perfect night, all that planning and organising comes down to one night, a night that is nerve wracking in the build up but this year I was full of confidence that we would, once again, have a success on our hands.
So we start with room set up and this year we were lucky enough (thankfully) to be able to get into New Dock Hall on Friday to start the massive task of putting on 515 chair covers and bows! Once again this isn't possible without Sam, Karen and their fabulous team at Glamourpuss Weddings along with a little help from the Big Ball Central crew!
Kieron at Giant Events was also hard at work in the room setting up the fabulous Event Books which I have to say added the most unique element to the night, these books are Kieron's baby, designed and built by him they can be personalised perfectly to your event. I loved the turning pages and the fact that the content changed running alongside the event.
Saturday was spent in a haze of balloons and ribbon for perfectionist Sam whilst the rest of us either curled said ribbon, sprinkled table diamonds, lit centrepieces and generally prettied the room whilst lighting, projection and sound engineers worked to make the room glow like the Winter Wonderland we wanted.
I had my orders to be back in the room to brief everyone by 5.45, The Vegas Girls were in position feathers on and sequins glowing, the band was sound checked and the brilliant Ian Royce was all set and ready to go.
The doors were opened, drinks were poured and the the reception was filling up pretty quickly! Flitting in and out of the rooms I did manage to say Hi to a few people although not nearly as many as I would've liked but then the nerves really started to kick in and I found a quiet corner in the main room to take a few breaths. Joined by 'Roycey' we chatted and he really took my mind off things making me laugh and making me swoon by dropping in the fact he'd had an email from Gary Barlow the day before ... Imagine, 'The Captain' actually emailed him !!!
Ian is a genuinely lovely man who, without knowing me, agreed to spare his precious time to host the ball for nothing. It was just a casual mention on twitter that had him doing his damnedest, despite a busy Britain's Got Talent Schedule, to be there for us. I'm so so glad he did what a superb addition to the night he was and his generous donation to the auction saw it raise £4000 as well as another £6000 through our other lots.
Mark Waddington joined us again this year to blow our minds with his Close up magic and he was joined by Marc Lavelle to help him along as the attendance was so big. I know they were a huge hit with those they managed to see judging by the cheers and hollers from around the room!
This year I wanted to add a surprise element to the night with the addition of Singing waiters. Provided by Dave Molloy at Events Line the girls certainly had everyone fooled and had the room up and on their feet during a break in the casino and auction. I'm extremely grateful to Dave for helping us out and if you need to add a surprise element to your event the Singing Waiters are perfect
The Fabulous Vegas Girls were ever present and did a superb job in getting everyone to their casino tables on time, our table was appalling and lost all our cash within 2 spins however our highest rolling table did fabulously and bagged themselves the £500 cash prize. The Vegas Girls are always on duty and professional and I think will be a regular addition to our event from now on, I've seen some brilliant pictures of them with guests and am gutted I didn't take the opportunity to have my picture taken with them. Massive Thanks again to all the girls for their hard work.
And so the night continued with the raffle and Auction led perfectly by 'Roycey' he kept the whole room involved and encouraging lots of bids, we made more on our auction this year than we did at our first event back in 2010! I was left speechless at the amounts and I'd like to say Thank You to everyone who donated an auction lot to us.
During the night I do like to take a moment, stand back and look at what we managed to achieve and it is helped along by a select few. As I do a little wander and try to talk to most tables every year the same people stop me and allow me that time, without them I wouldn't take the chance so Thanks to them.
It was dancing time with the fantastic Vibetown as our band for the night they sang their socks (and our shoes) off, for the rest of the night the dancefloor was jam packed, it was absolutely brilliant and I loved that they were even taking requests at one point due to heckling from the front.
All too soon the DJ was calling time at the bar and the night was drawing to a close the night had gone unbelievably fast, 7 hours had gone in the blink of an eye and all that was left to do was count up to our total.
Alexander's Charity Ball 2014 was a resounding success we raised over £27,000 for The Lullaby Trust but none of it would be possible without the generosity of sponsors and prize donators. The more successful the ball becomes the more we need the help of sponsors. Glamourpuss, Who Ate My Crayons and Giant Events donated their time, expertise and contacts for nothing which allowed the night to grow but we also couldn't put our ideas into practice without the help of our cash sponsors Stephen Crowther Associates, Coda Studios, Bapp Group, IT@Spectrum, Lancaster Property Services and of course New Dock Hall.
Thank You everyone involved in any way you are helping me to create an amazing legacy for my little star, I hope that we are able to continue making Alexander's Charity Ball a success with your help. It's not easy putting myself out there time and again, telling Alexander's story over and over but I know that it is more than worth it for the good it will do and the people it will help through The Lullaby Trust.
Tell me about your night, what you enjoyed, how you felt it went and share your pictures with us over on Facebook
See You Next Year !!!!!
Can you help?
There are many many things involved in organising a Charity Ball, it's no mean feat let me tell you and the pressure is on to make each night as good and even better than the last.
Our popularity has grown and grown and from 200 people attending in 2011 we are expecting over 400 for 2014.
The word is spreading so attendance is increasing and I am overjoyed that so many want to join us in remembering our son but in order to make it the success I want it to be I need a few things.
If you provide us with a service, sponsorship or prize donation then you will have a captive audience of over 400 on the night plus the views on our website are hitting between 200 and 600 views per day...Can you afford not to be a part of it?
Below is a bit of a wishlist and if you feel you can help then please do get in touch at email@example.com or via our facebook page https://www.facebook.com/AlexandersCharityBall
1) Goody Bags - I'd love every guest to leave Alexander's Ball with a little memento of the night. For this I'd need someone to supply the bags and vouchers and samples to go in them. Can you help?
2) Can you do a promotional video for Alexander's Charity Ball maybe to include a word from our sponsors as well as snippets from me and maybe The Lullaby Trust and then film our night so people can see exactly what they get for their money. I'm sure our guests will be happy to rave about us on film on the night!
3) Raffle and Auction prizes - This is increasingly the hardest request, there are so many great people doing great things for great charities that I fear the pot is very increasingly empty. Please consider a donation of a prize to us it doesn't have to be an extravagant prize, the raffle alone can raise about £4000 for us which is a superb amount to lose if I don't do it.
4) Despite lots of asking we still don't have anyone to design our posters and brochures, if this is something you are able to do for us we'd very much appreciate it. I am hoping this is an ongoing relationship with ACB so if you are willing to help please do get in touch
Please please share the website, blog and facebook page to everyone you can, if you are a blogger please consider us for a post. Alexander's Charity Ball is not just about raising money it's about awareness, Sudden Infant Deaths are still happening and the number of babies dying every year needs to reduce but that can only happen with your help.
Thank You to everyone who has helped so far
What a whirlwind of a week that's been! This time last week we were getting ready to leave for London and frantically waiting for the official launch from The Lullaby Trust so we could announce it on here, Facebook and Twitter.
Yesterday I had the honour and privilege of being at Number 10 Downing Street at reception hosted by Mrs Samantha Cameron for The Lullaby Trust.
I took a guest with me, David Cross a close friend of ours for a long time. David is the founder and company director of Coda Studios in Sheffield and along with his wife Toni have been a fabulous support both personally and with our fundraising. Coda sponsors the ball every year, they sell raffle tickets for us and they hold their own fundraising events as well.
Sometimes for me to say Thank you doesn't really cover the depth of emotion I feel at the generosity of our sponsors, I only wish I could have taken all of them with me.
Lots of people have told me this week how brave we were to go on National telly and speak about our story, it's not brave!
I don't want to be doing national telly, I don't want to be at a reception at Number 10, I don't want this website to exist and I don't want to host Alexander's Ball. What I do want is for my family to be complete again, for our missing member to come back and make this ache in my heart go away, I want hugs and kisses from all 5 of my boys, I want Alexander back!
This is never going to happen and so I keep him an active member of our family by fundraising and raising awareness of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome. Alexander gives me the strength to carry on day to day, to tell his story in the hope that one day SIDS will no longer exist, that families won't know the heartache of that missing baby as we do. Along the way I hope that we reach out, to let those families that are going through their worst nightmare, know that they are not alone, that there is an amazing charity out there to help them and that there are other parents willing to offer a shoulder to unburden themselves on.
It was amazing to see the wonderful supporters of The Lullaby Trust at Number 10 yesterday, that we are all working towards the same goal and by sharing our sad stories, will ultimately help The Lullaby Trust in their mission.
Thank You everyone for all your good wishes, support and comments. As the most phenomenal week comes to an end I wonder what I've got to look forward to in the future with The Lullaby Trust...
Keep watching this space for Alexander's Charity Ball 2014 announcement !!!
So, that's it! Done and dusted for another year and what an absolutely fabulous night!
Starting at 10am with Sam and her Glamourpuss team (and a couple of novice hands) there were 300 sashes, 30 mirrors, Vases and Light bases, over 3000 feathers, millions of table diamonds, 1 blow up Champagne bottle, 50ish balloons and one emergency trip back to Barnsley!
The room looked stunning and as always Sam gave The Queens Hotel Ballroom the WOW factor. Everyone commented on how stunning it all looked so Thank You Sam.
The decor was then given a sparkly boost with the addition of a Twinkle Dancefloor supplied by Wedding Venue Lighting if you haven't seen one in action I have to say it beats dancing on a plain old dance floor, I think this is going to have to be a regular addition to The Ball now! Lighting in the room was given an ambient pink glow by Martin from Carta Projects as well as our lovely logo on the wall, I have to say even though we had a little hiccup with the lights due to The Queens electrics not being 100% Martin didn't hesitate to drive all the way back to us to sort it out. Excellent service and I am trying to restrain myself from looking at all the fantastic things Carta Projects can do for us for 2014!!!
That was it the night was under-way, the speech was nervously spoken whilst trying to hold back the tears and take in the 300 pairs of eyes staring back at me, the meal was delicious and the drinks were flowing nicely.
Our entertainment was massive hit so once again I need to say Thank You to Graeme Cox
http://www.party-joe.com/fr_home.cfm for starting the evening off with his wonderful voice and Mark Waddington who entertained brilliantly with his magic, the amount of people talking about the tricks at breakfast made me chuckle alot. http://yorkshireweddingmagician.com/
Func on the Rocks were unbelievable no sooner had they said hello and started their set then the dance floor was swamped, you did a brilliant job guys the dance floor never emptied whilst you were playing and so many people came to me to say how good you were http://funcontherocks.com/ Also our Fun Casino was once again a massive hit so Thank You to Ian Mac and Grosvenor Fun Casino's everyone had a blast and lots of very happy prize winners.
There are some brilliant pictures floating about from the night some of which are here, if you were there and would like to share them please tag us on facebook I'd love to see them
Please please share your memories with us, what you enjoyed and maybe what you'd like to see in the future, all ideas are gratefully received.
And so to our total ...
£16029 is the total raised from the sales of all tickets including the Raffle, Auction Prizes, Sales of Fun Casino Money and Golden Envelopes on the night and the donation from our Photographer. Also included in this total is £410 from Penistone Players, our local Theatre Group who I have to say did a great job Thank You All.
I'm overwhelmed I wanted £15000 and hoped we could achieve it so THANK YOU all so so much for playing a part in it. I now need to have a chat with FSID and talk about where this money is best placed, some of which will be going into research as normal but I would really like to keep this in Yorshire and have a legacy for Alexander in his home county.
It also appears that I may have booked Alexander's Charity Ball 2014 so after a few months off I shall come back to you all ready to start again!!!
This is long overdue so my apologies to Alison and Jolly Tots for the time delay!
Things are hotting up at Big Ball Central, ticket money is trickling in and our entertainment has been confirmed.
This wouldn't be possible without the aid of sponsors and here is a Big Thank You to another of our fabulous supporters.
Jolly Tots Soft Play is Penistone's only soft play centre and was originally opened on 9th February 2009 !!! It was the brainchild of two local mums who saw a gap in the market and has gone from strength to strength with Alison at the helm. It's a haven for mums with kids under 5 giving us the space to sit and have a coffee and a slice of far too tempting cake whilst the littlies play in the perfect sized play equipment.
Since opening Jolly's has been a regular supporter of FSID for which I owe them a debt of gratitude. Alison regular holds shopping evenings raising money and she can often be found selling our raffle tickets and rallying interest in Alexanders Charity Ball.
This year they have gone one step further and are sponsoring our Magician for the night Mark Waddington, once again the support of Alison is overwhelming not only for the ball, raffle and now sponsorship but as a friend.
Thank You Alison and Jolly Tots x
Jolly's has a Facebook Page so please go over and give them a like, Joseph and I have made some great friends through Jolly's and it has become a regular event in our weekly diary. https://www.facebook.com/pages/Jolly-Tots/66613472254?fref=ts
This is a guest post from Helen at Photography for Little People about who she is and why she supports Alexander's Charity Ball
When I first heard about Alexander's Charity and the tragedy that had
struck Nicola and her family I felt a tremendous wave of sadness and
wondered how you could ever continue on lives path. I must admit I
came home that night, at the time my own son was 17months old and I held him so tight thinking if that had of been me!
Anyway as I recently started my own business I was looking to work
with a charity that would be part of me and Photography for Little
People Sheffield. I felt after all these years of dreaming of my own business that part of it was also to help raise awareness and monies for a worthwhile cause. I had looked at lots of charities but none
that struck a cord with me, until of course I met Nicola.
I spent many a night thinking and reading Nicola's story, which then prompted me to research FSID even more. I arranged a coffee with Nicola and I knew within minutes that Alexander's Charity was the
one for me. Something inside knew that I had to do all I could, however small to help raise awareness and do what I could to show that there are more families than we know who are suffering in the way Nicola and her family have and still do. And without the families such as Nicola and the charity, all of those other families in need would have no where to turn to. Realistically, this is Alex's charity and one Nicola has poured her heart and soul into. I wanted Nicola to know she could trust me in promoting the charity in a positive way, so I really was on tenderhooks until Nicola expressed her delights in having PLP be part of something so personal. However all in all my small contribution makes me feel part of something special and unique.
So what have I been doing? Well so far I have just had all my artwork re done to include Alexander's Charity logo and links to the charity on the Sheffield PCT trust. I am currently working on getting the link on my business page and on my next print run of leaflets and posters, the logo will be proudly part of my work. On
top of that I am actively seeking a celebrity to agree to have an impression of their hand, along with a signed photo to be auctioned on the night of the Ball! Both me and Nicola are hoping that if we
get the celebrity on board they may even attend.....so watch this space!!!!!
On a personal note and although I never met Alex, I am sure he would be so proud of his mummy who is a true inspiration. And because of Nicola I feel that I can spread the awareness of Alex but in a truly
positive way and as mummy it has made me more thankful for my very own piece of perfection!
Helen is the busiest person ever but has still taken the time out to include ACB as part of her work, we are still in the early stages of this collaboration so we are both working on ideas to make this work for us both. Please take a look at PLP's main website they have some lovely shots and impressions and do a great amount of work for charity _ Helen is also on Facebook so please go over and give her a like by clicking here
So it's done I have officially completed my training and signed up to be an FSID Befriender.
Travelling to York on Saturday I was still feeling apprehensive about whether it was the right thing to do and about I would meet. I haven't 'met' others who have suffered a loss the same as me face to face and although I've shared our story on the FSID website and in their 40 years book I was anxious about sharing it with a complete stranger.
I hate entering a room of strangers on my own, it's a huge insecurity of mine and whilst I appear confident and outgoing I am quite shy and uncertain in situations like this however, I had no need to worry. I suppose as a befriender you can't be too shy or reserved and so as we all arrived we got chatting about the journey, parking etc you know the mundane chatty things strangers talk about.
It turns out there was a mix of us in the group with a few being experienced befrienders there for catch up training and the rest of us there to work on the skills required to be a befriender. It was also nice to meet members of the FSID team as well, Hafsa and Jean who were guiding us on the day and Gill Ryder who is the Regional Development Officer for FSID in the Yorkshire (and more) region.
I don't want to go into the ins and outs of the day but we started the day in pairs each telling the other our story with the aim being that we would then introduce our partner to the group. I was honoured to hear Mary's story about her grandson Edward and I think all of us were surprised at how emotional we all got, we shared parts of our story that we wouldn't normally share with a stranger and we came to the conclusion that as they'd been through a similar tragedy, subconsciously, we weren't afraid of upsetting or shocking that person as they could empathise with our situation.
The whole aim of befriending is to get the caller to open up and talk about the things they feel they can't with anyone else, knowing that the befriender can hear the bad parts of the story without glossing over it or telling you to pull yourself together. No one else knows the pain of losing a child suddenly and unexpectedly like another. They ring the helpline because they want to talk and I have to give them the space to do that, letting them know I am willing to listen to everything they have to say without offering the usual platitudes. You know the usual 'It'll get easier over time' or 'It's normal to feel this way but time is great healer' the things you say when you don't want to hear the bad bits and unconsciously cut the other person off.
I came away on Saturday with a confidence that I could do this and whilst it's not easy to hear someone's very sad story they need to tell it to someone so why shouldn't it be me! I was privileged to meet all those brilliant and brave Mums, Grandma's, Aunties and Granddad's who have all felt as I did and understood this ache that I have on a daily basis. They shared their story with me and I with them and they got it every single one them and I thank them for that.
Befriending isn't a massive commitment so I may receive contact only a handful of times in a year but once that contact is made it could be a longer term commitment involving a phonecall every couple of weeks or so or maybe even an email. Also once a year attending one of the family fun days run by FSID (which are free anyway) and taking an hour or two out of my day to be available to chat if I'm needed. Considering Alexander's Ball are funding the Yorkshire regions fun day for 2013 we shall definitely be there!
Thank You to Jean and Hafsa who made the day as comfortable as possible, who answered questions and sat patiently whilst we shared our stories and often went off the track sometimes!
In September I applied to FSID to become a 'Befriender', I got to thinking that not everyone is as lucky as I am to have the support of family and friends. Over the five and half years since we lost Alexander I can honestly say that without them I might not be quite as sane as I like to think.
They are there for me at a moments notice allowing me to unload and cry if I need too, there is nothing like a friendly shoulder to cry on.
I want to be able to offer that to other families who reach out to FSID asking for help. I raise money and yes it's hard work but it's not the same as giving someone emotional support but I am a little apprehensive! What if I say the wrong thing, what if I'm not the right person for the job, What if I fail?
On Saturday I am taking a jaunt to York for FSID's befriender training where I will be given the tools to offer support to anyone that asks for it, be that on the telephone or Face to face. I'm not there to be a counsellor or answer any medical questions I am there to listen and encourage the caller to open up about how they are feeling, no one quite understands like someone who has been through it. They are asking for a few hours of my time a month which is nothing to me but everything to a newly bereaved parent.
So wish me luck I am nervous about it no doubt but I know that people listening to me (or reading my story) has been a huge help and I want to offer the same support to someone who needs it. I'll let you know how I get on next week.
http://fsid.org.uk/page.aspx?pid=1079 Here is a link to the befriender information on FSID's Website
So whilst in the shower I got to thinking, it's actually where I think and reflect the most. Probably because it's the quietest room in the house and the time I get a little bit of me time!
This isn't an easy post but for me I wanted to write a personal post about the things that come to me when I least expect them, sometimes I can appear detached from the issues when the fundraiser in me takes over but these are things I remember from that day the things that are imprinted on my memory.
I Remember ...
the day it happened, the worst actual day of my whole 34 years. The shower I took before 'waking' my son, the moment I touched that bedroom door handle and knew with absolute certainty that something was drastically wrong.
ringing Ian who was on his way to work, lying to him just so he would be careful driving home.
ringing our parents and my Mum strangely asking if I'd phoned an ambulance.
his foot peeking out from a blanket as the paramedics carried him to the ambulance.
the car journey to the hospital, the hope that Ian had that things would be ok and knowing deep down there was no hope.
the look on the faces of the 3 men that had tried to save my baby.
the sound of my husbands hope disappearing in the instant we saw that little person laying lifeless on a massive hospital bed.
asking for a Catholic priest (I haven't set foot in a Catholic Church in a long time) and thinking when he arrived that his shoes were terrible and had no laces in them!
the sight of a Dad from my boys school (who is a Vicar) walking towards us and feeling able to let go, he and his family are now a very dear set of friends for us.
ringing Shelley (a Twin Mum, a member of a fabulous message board for parents of twins and someone with whom I'd met only a handful of times) I cannot remember exactly what I said or how long I was on the phone but it was important to me at that time to let the 'friends' I'd made over 2 years know.
all those sad faces arriving at our door with no idea what to expect or what to say.
the weather, it snowed !
the police. I can't tell you what they looked like, who they were (I know they were locals) or what they said but I know they were there not in an intruding way they were just there.
my Dad taking Tom and Jack on endless bracing walks and building snowmen in the garden.
the endless cups of tea, it wore my kettle out !
the emptiness, the heartache, the fear.
watching Harrison our surviving twin searching in their hiding spots looking for the other half of him.
Most things are a blur or feel a little like I dreamed them but 5 and half years later these are the things that pop into my head when I least expect them too. I know I will never ever forget the events of that day and I'm sorry if this post is a little difficult for you to read but I needed to share it, for me but to also try and make people understand a little more.
Thanks for reading
Welcome to our blog I will try as regularly as I can to keep you up to date with The Ball, The Charity and any other news !