Thursday, 9 December 2010

Stories From The Archives – Part One …

Every now and again somebody asks me about that donation. I’m referring of course to the £100,000 that was given to the appeal back at the start of May, transforming it from doing very well to doing phenomenally. At the time it was decided that we would simply refer to it publically as an anonymous donation; in the sense that the benefactor was, and still is, a complete stranger to us it was anonymous. However, there is a little more to the story than that and now the season of goodwill is almost upon us I’ve decided to share some more details on here about it. Mainly because it demonstrates that there are people in this land who are capable of spontaneous acts of amazing generosity without wanting or needing anything in return. People who do things not for the want of recognition or adulation, but simply because they have the means to so, and they hope it will make a positive difference.

It was Thursday May 6th. The week before we’d received the latest set of Adam’s scan results and were told that for the first time there had been no improvement at all from two months ago. Adam then developed cellulitis and was put on daily antibiotics to deal with it before we could start a different type of chemotherapy. It wasn’t the best of times.

I was at home looking after Jake and Jessica on this particular day, I can’t remember exactly why (clearly I was looking after them because they are my children, what I mean is I don’t know where Alison and Adam were). I was on twitter trying to get Ruth Lorenzo (who was possibly going to come and sing at Adam’s Appeal Ball) to re-tweet  one of my messages. At the same time I was preparing to update the website and announce with a big fanfare that the total raised had reached £100,000. I was in a hurry as I had to take Jake to football training which started at 6 o’clock.

A new email notification appeared on my screen. I took a cursory look at it then quickly returned to the other stuff I was doing online. The email, as I read it, said that the owner of a metals trading firm had authorised the payment of £100.00 towards the Adam Bird Appeal and the money had been transferred accordingly. My initial thoughts I can tell you were ‘that’s nice’  and ‘i don’t recognise the name of the company’. Here is the actual email. I have removed names for one simple reason, from that day to this day the owner of the company in question has no desire for it to be in public domain.

To: <>
Dear Sir,
As requested by the owner of xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx, we have today
transferred £100,000 towards the Adam Bird appeal.
We hope that this goes some way to assisting in obtaining successful
treatment for Adam.
Proof of payment is attached.  Please advise should you have any
problems receiving these funds.
Best Regards
For and on behalf of

You can no doubt spot my mistake, but I was in a rush and I didn’t read it properly!

I only discovered my error when Debbie who manages the appeal called me up and asked me if I’d seen the email. She sounded a little excited but I had no idea why – I assumed it was a completely different email to which she was referring. The conversation went something like this:-

“Have you seen the email?”

“The one about Ruth Lorenzo? Yes, I’m just trying to message her on twitter as we speak.”

“No not that one, the one about the donation.”

“Oh that one. Yes I saw that”. As cool as the proverbial I was, I still had no inkling at this point. “I have no idea who’s behind it.”

“Did you see the amount?”

"Yes. One hundred pounds.”

"I don’t think so… you need to take another look at it.”

Honestly, I’ve not made any of this up. When I first looked fleetingly at the email what I thought I saw was one, zero, zero, dot, zero, zero. When I looked properly this time what I actually saw was one, zero, zero, COMMA,, zero, zero, ZERO.

Oh my goodness (or words to that effect). Is that for real? Does it really say one hundred thousand pounds? Is is genuine? It looks genuine. How can we find out for sure that it’s genuine? I opened the proof of payment and it looked … well … like a proof of payment. I suppose my reaction was one of amazement and disbelief, coupled with the thought that I ought not to get too carried away until we were entirely certain of it’s validity.

Now I’ve got Jake nagging in my ear. Damn, it’s 6 o’clock. I should have left to take him to football training 10 minutes ago. It was surreal. I remember when I got there telling his coach “I think somebody has just donated a hundred grand to the appeal, but I’m not quite 100% sure yet.”

I called one of the trustees of 2 Simple Trust and explained to him what had just happened. He in turn contacted the bank. It was outside working hours, they wouldn’t be able to confirm receipt of the funds until the following morning! So that was that, we just had to wait. I was 99% sure that it was exactly what it appeared to be, but I don’t think I would have been human if there wasn’t a nagging doubt in the back of mind.

On Friday morning I received a message from the same  trustee to say the bank had confirmed a payment of one hundred thousand pounds had been made into the account and everything was in order. Unbelievable. Just unbelievable. You hear in the newspapers about this high profile figure, or that wealthy celebrity, making large donations to various charitable causes and it’s one of the things that occasionally I had thought about. Maybe if I can get this person to talk to that person who knows  that mega-rich famous person then… but this donation came out of absolutely nowhere, not from anybody rich and famous, nor from anybody wanting anything in return – not even as far as I could tell a thank you. They just wanted to help, pure and simple.

So much for my plans for the big announcement that we’d reached one hundred thousand pounds! Suddenly the total had doubled overnight, and I think at that point everybody really believed that if pushed on we’d certainly reach our target and beyond.

I must confess that at the actual time we received the donation we were not actually that excited about it. It was amazing and unbelievable yes, but we weren’t ecstatic or filled with glee. What you have to remember, and what is difficult (impossible?) for people to truly grasp unless they’ve have been in our situation is this. Adam is suffering from an aggressive, life-threatening illness. We’ve just been told that the last two months of treatment haven’t worked and he is no longer showing any positive response on his diagnostic scans. And on top of that he has a lump which the doctors think might be cellulitis and are treating accordingly. But they’re not sure what it is. And they’re not sure how long it will take to clear up. And until it’s resolved Adam can’t have any more chemotherapeutic drugs for his cancer. So right then, in that moment, we were at a low ebb that no amount of money was going to pull us out of. But not doing cartwheels is not the same as ingratitude. We were, still are, and always will be, deeply grateful. But I’d be lying if I said I didn’t have to put on a happy face once or twice when asked about it, for fear of appearing like an ungrateful (excuse my language) bastard.

Sometime later I did find out a little more about how the donation came about, not least because I wanted the opportunity to send a thank you to the person ultimately responsible for it. It transpires that it all began with an email - sent by somebody, related to somebody, who had a connection with Jake, my eldest son and Adam’s brother, seven years ago. At around the same time I put a video online of Adam running out with the West Bromwich Albion team. Somewhere in London a metals trader who I will most probably never meet or even speak to face-to-face saw that video and made up their mind about what they wanted to do.

And that ladies and gentlemen is how Adam’s Appeal came to be the beneficiary of it’s largest single donation.

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