Elle, Cara and Clare raise £40,000 for the hospice with their auction of promises

Last summer, Elle Rainbird, Cara Norfolk and Clare Dudley-Williams organised an auction of promises to raise money for St Christopher’s. The auction took place on Friday 9 June at Dulwich and Sydenham Hill Golf Club and raised an incredible £40,000 for the hospice. We caught up with Elle to hear her story:

We organised the auction of promises to raise money for St Christopher’s and raise awareness about the care and support that the hospice offers. The people that we invited were all in the same boat as us; based in Dulwich, in their 30s or 40s with school aged children. Very few of these people knew about the work that St Christopher’s does or realised that it’s our local hospice. A lot of them also have elderly parents or have lost a parent, and now they know about St Christopher’s they want to support the hospice.

My mum passed away at St Christopher’s just over five years ago in October 2012. She had been diagnosed with breast cancer and given six months to live. After several weeks in hospital, the plan was for her to move in with me following some respite at St Christopher’s. As soon as she arrived at the hospice she fell in love with the garden and spent all of her time there. It was just when the weather was changing and I saw her decide that this was where she felt at peace and wanted to die. She felt free at last to move on. The nurses were so lovely to my mum and did everything to make her comfortable, bringing her hot tea when she wanted it and lots of cake, which she loved. When she died, the hospice staff were really good at explaining what we needed to do next because this wasn’t something that we’d been through before. I had bereavement counselling at St Christopher’s from a lovely person who gave me the space to talk about how much I missed my mum. My mum was my right hand; she did everything for me and we spent every day together. Losing her was very difficult, especially as I had just had my second baby.

My father was also under the care of St Christopher’s as a visiting patient who came to the hospice to have his medication monitored and dispensed; he died at home in 2016. Clare’s father passed away at St Christopher’s ten years ago and had a similar experience to my mum’s. He felt at peace there and knew that the nurses would bring him exactly what he wanted in the eleventh hour and help make his exit more dignified.

The auction of promises was a wonderful way of giving back to the hospice. Clare and I had been touched by the help Cara had offered us when we arranged a quiz night for St Christopher’s the previous year, and Cara wanted to get involved in the auction as we and many of her close friends had found comfort and support from St Christopher’s or similar charities when a loved one had passed away. Cara wrote an amazing ‘ask letter’ which helped us to gain over 50 attractive auction lots, and she decorated the venue with gold balloons on the night of the auction, to celebrate the hospice’s 50th year.

The evening began with a prosecco reception followed by a delicious three course meal. After that we had the auction with prizes including a week’s stay in South Africa, Centre Court debenture tickets for Wimbledon, a tour of the Houses of Parliament, a bespoke wine tasting experience, dinner at the exclusive Ivy Club and tickets to an Arsenal and Chelsea game. We also included smaller prizes like two hours of gardening and an evening of babysitting so there was something for everyone to bid on. We had placed all the lots on a website that Penny Scaffold kindly built for us, and it both attracted local businesses to donate promises and whetted our guests’ appetites so they could plan their bids in advance!

Noel Annesley, the honorary chairman of Christie’s, is a local supporter of St Christopher’s and agreed to be our auctioneer for the evening. He was great; very discrete and skilled at facilitating the auction rather than overtly pushing bids. We had gathered too many prizes to auction all of them so decided to hold a silent auction. People were able to browse the items and write down their maximum bid for each lot on a piece of paper. We then announced the winning bids at the end of the evening.

We wanted to raise as much money as possible from gift aid so we put gift aid envelopes on each table. When we welcomed everybody at the beginning of the evening, we explained that St Christopher’s was organising a trip to Wilderness Festival for its young adults and still needed £3,000 to make the trip happen. We appealed to everyone to put something in their envelope towards the trip and managed to raise just over £3,000! We also had two cases of Champagne that someone had generously donated so as a ‘thank you’ to those who had donated, we picked out two of the envelopes and the winners got a case each.

All in all it was a wonderful evening and everyone who came really enjoyed the opportunity to dress up and experience a different kind of night out. There was a real sense of embracing our community as well as having fun with friends.