Here at Veterans with Dogs, we have recently recruited a new puppy, who will soon embark on his journey to help improve the quality of life for a veteran with mental health injuries, by becoming an Assistance Dog. This would not have been possible without the efforts of our fundraising champion, Giles Nevill.
Over the years, Giles has embarked on various fundraising challenges, raising an unimaginable amount of money for our charity.
We asked Giles to answer a few questions...
1) Can you tell us a little bit of background about yourself?
I am 57, and until recently owned and ran a holiday business in SW France specialising in painting and photography holidays - sadly no more thanks to the impact of Covid19, so currently out of work and taking things slowly while I work out what to do next! When life is more normal, I like to keep active and enjoy an outdoor life as much as possible, mostly to stay fit and healthy which includes walks with my dog - a rescue retriever/Alsatian cross, as well as time on a bike or rowing machine. Having broken my foot quite badly a while ago, I am unable to run any great distance, so marathon running is out (which I am not sad about!) and therefore I participate in particular in sit down sports. Hence my two major fundraising projects to date - rowing a marathon of 42,195 metres on a Concept 2 rowing machine in 2018 on the same day as the London Marathon, raising £24,000 and in 2020, I cycled 1370 miles down France in support of Veterans With Dogs, and in memory of my Great Uncle, Ronnie Mackintosh-Walker, who did this 80 years ago having escaped from the Germans after being captured at St Valery en Caux along with 10,000 other Scottish soldiers shorty after Dunkirk in 1940 - raised £29,000.
2) What made you start fundraising for Veterans With Dogs?
I had time - With our business in France which was very much seasonal, I was especially busy in the summer months, but had a lot of free time in the winter. As well as maintenance work on our property etc, I also used that time during the winter to get involved in some worthwhile projects. Being ex-Army and feeling very strongly about the need to support our service men and women, many of whom continue to struggle with the physical and mental effects of their service, completing a charity project was high on my list of things to do to keep me busy and entertained.
Why Veterans with Dogs? Not sure how I came across VWD, but think it was through a link on the Combat Stress website. I didn't want to support one of the big military charities who were already well supported and where a lot of the money raised goes into running the charity as opposed to the people who really need that money and support. When I found VWD, it seemed like a perfect fit, especially as it involved dogs who I knew could have a great impact on helping struggling veterans. I did some due diligence to confirm that the charity was a reputable one and this was made easy for me when they were awarded a Millie in 2017 in the Support to the Armed Forces category - they would not have received that recognition from the Sun newspaper if they were a dodgy outfit!
3) What has been the most rewarding thing whilst fundraising for our charity?
Three aspects really - 1 As the charity isn't a big one (at this stage), it very much feels like a family and it has been great to get to know Craig and Chrissie and the team who have been hugely supportive and appreciative, and they have all have been kind enough to keep me informed of developments and progress. I am just one small part of this, but I know the veterans they support all feel the same way - the charity does so much more than just provide them with highly trained dogs, but ongoing support in so many ways, especially at this very difficult time for everyone.
And 2 - I have been fortunate enough to have raised quite large sums of money which have enabled the charity to procure and train a number of dogs - it has been great to be able follow their progress through training etc and share this information and pictures of the dogs with everyone who was kind enough to sponsor me which has been really appreciated. With a lot of charity giving, the money raised goes into a big pot and one never really knows what the money is spent on with what result - with my fundraising, I have a very definite result from my projects, and it is great to have such a tangible result to follow - the dogs. This has the added benefit of me being able to maintain ongoing contact with the charity.
And 3 - It is great knowing that Craig and all the team are devoted to their charity and that every penny raised is spent as wisely and efficiently as possible for the benefit of the veterans they support.
4) What has been the most challenging thing about fundraising for our charity?
The actual rowing or cycling event itself has been the (relatively) easy part of each venture - creating the publicity and therefore interest to promote the fundraising requires just as much effort and attention as the event itself. Fortunately, I had a lot of generous support from a lot of people, but to be honest, the story of VWD and what they do sells itself and this makes the fundraising so much easier.
5) Do you have any advice for anyone who wishes to fundraise for our charity in future?
In particular, go for it and enjoy it - it doesn't matter if you end up raising a £100 or £10,000 - VWD is wonderful charity who deserve and need our support. But it is important where possible, to achieve a good amount which will be really appreciated by the charity and the veterans, but also an amount which you will feel is worthy of your effort - with that in mind, do put some thought, time and effort into the promotion, publicity and fundraising and you will achieve your target - pester your friends and contacts in a nice way! i.e. maximise your earning potential while you have the chance. Fortunately promoting VWD is a relatively easy thing to do as it ticks so many boxes - mental health is such a huge issue today, the military and the veterans are highly regarded, and no one can resist a really excellent animal-based charity! So, include lots of pictures of VWD dogs in your publicity/social media!!
If you would like to start fundraising for us and become one of our fundraising champions, please visit our website for further information: https://veteranswithdogs.uk/get-involved/fundraise