How lockdown will cost Midlands and Shropshire charities millions

A long hot summer is relied on by charities, who benefit financially from sponsored events. But all has changed.

Last year's Dragon Boat Challenge at Himley Park
Last year's Dragon Boat Challenge at Himley Park

Charities across the West Midlands and Shropshire could be left millions of pounds out pocket as major summer events planned are cancelled or postponed due to the coronavirus outbreak.

The National Council for Voluntary Organisations has estimated that the crisis could cost the charity sector up to £4 billion nationally.

One of the biggest casualties has been the London Marathon, which was due to have taken place on Sunday. The event, which last year raised a record £66.4 million for charities across the UK, has now been put back until October.

Ludlow Rotary Club was forced to cancel its annual Dog Day which last year raised nearly £20,000 for charity.

Ludlow Dog Day, at Stokesay Court is another casualty of the virus

The event at Stokesay Court, which attracts about 3,000 visitors, was due to have been held on July 19, with the funds being shared between Guide Dogs for the Blind, St Michael's Hospice in Hereford, and Hope House Children's Hospice in Oswestry.

Hope House is expecting to lose at least £1 million as a result of the lockdown, but said it could be more, depending on how long the restrictions stay in place.

Vanessa Thomas, head of communications at the charity, said: "We have had to cancel all fundraising events for the foreseeable future which has had a huge impact on us because we rely on fundraising and donations to fund almost 80 per cent of our annual £6.5 million running costs."

Despite this, Mrs Thomas said the charity's supporters were coming up with ingenious ways to support the charity.

"For instance, Vicki Evans from St Martins, near Oswestry, was due to run the London Marathon for Hope House on Sunday," she said.

Vicki Evans will be running 2.6 miles around her garden to aid Hope House

"The challenge meant the world to Vicki because her daughter Poppy, who was born with a life-threatening condition, has been supported by Hope House for the last 10 years."

Mrs Thomas said Vicki would instead spend Sunday running 100 laps of her garden, a distance of 2.6 miles.

  • Hope House is asking people to show their support for Vicki by running with her in their gardens and posting photos online with the tag #Run4Poppy. They can also donate to her online appeal here

"Her daughters Poppy and Lyla, and husband Karl will be cheering her on instead of the London crowds," she said.

"They are an incredible and amazing family and we can’t thank them enough for their amazing efforts to continue helping us."

Mrs Thomas said the hospice continued to provide end-of-life care and crisis nursing for seriously ill children.

Vicki Evans, right, with daughter Poppy

"We are also working to support the NHS and free-up hospital beds and resources by nursing children who have been discharged early from hospital for specialist care," she added.

Severn Hospice, which operates centres in Shrewsbury and Telford, said more than £100,000 a week was being lost from the charity's income due to events being cancelled, shops shutting, and supporters being forced to stay at home.

Two of the biggest events of the charity's year have already fallen casualty: the two-day dragon boat festival in Shrewsbury, which had been due to take place on July 4 and 5, and the Colour Run in Telford Town Park, which would have been on June 14. Both events attract large crowds and generate considerable funds.

Hospice chief executive Heather Tudor said the charity was caring for 241 patients across Shropshire and Mid Wales.

“The number of patients we are caring for each week hasn’t changed – it’s probably the only thing Covid-19 hasn’t affected," she said.

Heather Tudor says the lockdown is costing Severn Hospice £100,000 a week

“We’re doing what we can to cut our costs and stretch our resources so our essential services remain protected, but I can’t pretend that’s enough to make up what we’ve lost from income."

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One event which may escape the lockdown is the Shrewsbury Half Marathon, thanks to a fortunate change of date introduced last year. The event, which typically raises more than £40,000 for charity, had traditionally been held in June, but last year organisers decided to switch the date to October. The change proved so popular that it was decided this year's event will be held on October 11. While it is impossible to predict how long the restrictions will stay in place, it seems likely that the event stands a good chance of going ahead.

The Rainbow Trust, which provides support for families with terminally ill children, voiced concerns that it would not be able to continue providing its services.

Chief executive Zillah Bingley said the charity desperately needed funds just to keep going.

"Ninety-eight per cent of our income comes from the generosity of the public and all our fundraising events for the foreseeable future have been cancelled or postponed," she said.

The Rotary Club of Wolverhampton stages three major fundraising events every year.

Two of these are caught up in the circumstances resulting from the measures currently in place to stop the current pandemic.

Best Foot Forward, staged every year in July at Aldersley Stadium, has already fallen victim. The annual sponsored walk has raised more than £130,000 since it was first held seven years ago, both through direct fundraising from the event and individual sponsorship of those taking part.

The Best Foot Forward event at Aldersley Leisure Village in Wolverhampton has also been cancelled due to coronavirus

Last year, cheques for more than £4,000 were each presented to Wolverhampton MS Therapy Centre, the Wolverhampton Coronary Aftercare Support Group and the Rotary Charitable Trust.

This year's event was due to be held at Aldersley on July 4, but like other charitable events across the region, the uncertainty of the current lockdown has meant it has had to be cancelled.

Geoff Lowndes, who heads up the organising committee, said: “We had hoped that perhaps a deferment until later in the year might be possible, but the uncertainty of securing a firm date before embarking upon the three-month lead time the event needs, coupled with the onset of winter conditions and temperatures, has led us to discount this. We have therefore concluded that planned event for 2020 must be abandoned.”

The club’s other major fundraising event, The Dragon Boat Challenge, staged in Himley Park, near Dudley, in May ever since 2000, has also been affected by the Covid restrictions.

Last year's Dragon Boat Challenge at Himley Park

Organiser Mike Boyce said: “With the date of the event being in the middle of May, we had to reach a decision in order to advise more than 20 teams who had entered and were already collecting funds for their nominated charities. It has been concluded that the event cannot take place on May 17, as formerly planned, and teams and stall holders have been advised.

“Against the possibility that things may improve, we have booked a revised date of September 27 with both Himley Park and our boat suppliers.

“A firm decision will be made on June 30 in the light of the circumstances then prevailing, and all those involved will be informed.”

Club President Richard Horrell added: “These are difficult times and, along with many others we are having to make decisions which have unwelcome consequences. We are very mindful that if neither of these events can take place then city charities will be deprived of something in the order of £40,000. This will compound difficulties already being experienced.

“We are trying to find means by which this position can in part be alleviated, and remain hopeful that our other major fundraiser the Tree of Remembrance in the Wulfrun Centre will go ahead as usual.”

Kinver Rotary Club has also been forced to cancel its annual 10km multi-terrain run across the Enville estate, which was scheduled to take place on October 4.

Club president David Goring said: "While we all hope the current troubles will be over by then, an event of this size takes a lot of organising and that planning should start now.

“Our inability to hold face-to-face meetings makes that planning impossible, so we have reluctantly decided to cancel this year’s race.”

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