We look back at an amazing year and share hopes for 2023 with Charlie House Director of Fundraising, Susan Crighton, and Children & Family Support Manager, Leigh Ryrie.
As 2022 ends and 2023 begins, we are feeling very reflective here at Charlie House. The past 12 months have been incredible, moving ever closer to our fundraising target for the Big Build, and we are so excited to see what the next year has in store for us.
We caught up with Susan Crighton, Director of Fundraising and Leigh Ryrie, Children & Family Support Manager, to discover their Charlie House highlights from 2022, and look forward to what we can achieve in 2023 with the ongoing support of our colleagues, volunteers, donors, ambassadors and local communities…
What were your highlights for Charlie House in 2022?
Susan: “There are so many highlights for me - too many to list in this blog post! I am always so grateful for the opportunities we are given, as every ounce of support we receive is greatly appreciated.
“For me personally, getting back to face-to-face events has been incredible. We’re all about ‘local’, so meeting all our local supporters is very important to us. We were part of so many events in 2022, but having 150 Santas running down Union Street was pretty special!
“Seeing our supporters let their hair down at our Big Build Ball and help us raise a phenomenal £190,000 was also a highlight for me - it was a truly magical evening.
“Watching the parents of families we support share stories about their lives, and how Charlie House makes a difference, has been so moving over the past year. Watching rooms filled with more than 200, 300 or 600 people fall into silence as they attentively listen is so incredible - and it really focuses everyone on why we do what we do.”
Leigh: “Being able to have face-to-face interactions with the families we support, whether emotional, practical or pre / post bereavement, has been my main highlight of 2022. We’ve also been able to have our vast range of activities and short stay breaks in person. The virtual world will continue to have its benefits, but face-to-face is absolutely what we do best.
“Moving to our new central, accessible facility on Carden Place is also a highlight for me. We now have a dedicated space to run group activities, provide support and so much more - bringing us one step closer to the Charlie House dream and vision.”
Did you face any obstacles in 2022?
Susan: “It’s a tough time for everyone right now with the cost-of-living crisis. As a charity, we are able to overcome this by thinking beyond fundraising.
“Every penny helps Charlie House help children in our community, however it is not just about fundraising – there are lots of ways people can support Charlie House. They can volunteer, be an ambassador and help us spread the word, contact us with speaker opportunities at community groups or societies such as Scouts, friendship groups or church groups, make introductions to contacts who may be able to support us, and meet us to learn more about what we do.”
What is your personal favourite Charlie House memory from 2022?
Susan: “A very special moment for me was at the Children’s Party we held after our ball, when two non-communicative children met and their faces lit up recognising each other. This was despite Santa and various elves trying to make them smile beforehand. Charlie House bringing
families together made this happen, and for me this summed up why we do what we do in a split second.”
Leigh: “There have been so many wonderful memories, but my stand-out memory has to be our weekend in November where volunteers gave an incredible 420 hours across ReCHarge Cafe, Curated, The Quad, Santa’s Workshop, The Big Build Ball, The Santa Run and The Children and Family Party. It was a lot to ask, but our volunteers rose to the challenge, with many supporting one, two or even three activities over the two days. Seeing the sea of orange sashes and the vibrant mix of orange t-shirts was incredibly special and emotional. We are so immensely proud of all our volunteers and everything they have achieved - and this year they received a prestigious Queen’s Award for Voluntary Service, the highest award a local voluntary group can receive in the UK.
“Another would be a summer activity where we had full families on paddleboards at Knockburn Loch in Aberdeenshire - including wheelchairs and buggies! It was a really special day for the families, and this is what we strive to do - help families make amazing memories together, and show them what can be achieved as parents.”
What are you most excited about for Charlie House in 2023?
Susan: “For me, it has to be entering the next phase of the Big Build project - when we break ground and see our vision start to become a reality. It’s what we are all working towards.”
Leigh: “I’m looking forward to building on everything we achieved in 2022, and keeping that momentum going into 2023 and beyond. We have the great privilege of supporting our fabulous volunteers who bring incredible energy, enthusiasm, and skills to everything they do. We look forward to collaborating with them even more next year, as well as Charlie House colleagues, to fulfil our regular activities and develop new and exciting opportunities.
“We also have a big opportunity to reach more families across the region and widen our support opportunities for them - which I am really looking forward to.”
What will be Charlie House’s biggest challenges or opportunities in 2023?
Susan: “Our biggest challenge is also an opportunity - securing the rest of the funding we need for the Big Build. This will be a huge task, but as the build progresses, it will give us new and different opportunities to approach funders. We will have different ‘asks’, for example equipment, furniture, furnishings, that will appeal to smaller funders. This will also give us an opportunity to engage with new and existing funders by being able to show them the progress being made and seeing the project becoming a reality.
“We are looking forward to selling more bricks as part of our Buy a Brick campaign, and seeing what we can achieve as a team in 2023 - it’s going to be a fantastic year!”
If you’re interested in supporting Charlie House’s Big Build Appeal, there are so many ways you can offer support.