1 May 2016

#GetYourBellyOut's Second Charity Evening

Whilst my blog may have been a little quiet of late, I'd say that as a whole my voice has definitely been louder than ever before in my attempts to raise awareness of IBD. Where have I been and what have I been up to you may be wondering. Well...

As it turns out I've been keeping myself extremely busy over with the #GetYourBellyOut team. We've spent the last few months planning a bit of a party to celebrate the campaigns second birthday. Wait, where did the time go?! It seems surreal that the awareness campaign is not only still up and running but stronger than ever before. We have soooo many plans that I know for certain I won't be having much of a break anytime soon. It's a good job then that I love what I do! 

A party, for hundreds of guests with absolutely no money in the budget; how hard could it be right? Nothing; we started with zero, so it's a very good job that we have some amazing friends and have built up some wonderful friendships with various organisations which all have the same aim as our own; to make life better for those tackling challenging times with chronic illness. 

Last years party received some really lovely feedback of which we were keen to build upon. We're very fortunate to have such wonderful campaign supporters who go above and beyond for us all throughout the year so our campaign birthday we feel is the perfect opportunity to give a little back and to say thank you in the best way that we know how; by spending a whole weekend handing out hugs of course!

Many of our guests traveled down the night prior to the party as this gave everyone extra time to settle in and adjust from the lengthy journeys. Twice now we've selected a city in the centre of the U.K in order to give everyone equal opportunity to attend. Having IBD ourselves we understand the struggles which come with traveling such long distances but that doesn't deter those travelling from Ireland, the Isle of White and from as far away as America to join us for such a special weekend! 

The team spent all day and night working on the party preparations and sent out countless emails to drum up support for the event. Not only is it a marvellous opportunity for the IBD community to come together but it too is the perfect weekend to rebuild everyone's confidence in reminding them all that despite the enormous challenges ahead, we're all united in the fight against Crohn's Disease & Ulcerative Colitis.

For the past two years I've spent many hours a day talking with and providing support for many of these individuals whilst encouraging them to join in a vast array of fundraising activities but this year was my first real opportunity to meet such a large volume of our campaign supporters at once. Support of which we were able to continue providing thanks to the vast array of organisations which helped out with our informational goodie bags! 
If you're following my blog you'll know that I've struggled with crippling anxiety which meant that I missed out on so much of life. Of late I've made huge strides in tackling this fight so much so that I felt up to the long journey to attend this years event. A journey of which I could never have imagined undertaking during the time that my anxiety was rife. This gives me hope that others who find themselves in the position that I was in can hopefully take comfort in knowing that things can and do improve. Where two years ago I was feeling very isolated, now I feel a tremendous sense of belonging and I was keen to ensure that I could say thank you in person to those who have changed the journey that I'm on.

Walking into the hotel the night before our big party was a bizarre experience, recognising so many faces but having them stood next to me instead of them being on other side of the screen was a lovely feeling. This too was the first time that I had met my campaign co-founders since #GetYourBellyOut began two years ago! I was greeted with such a warm welcome, so much so that I didn't feel as if I was in the company of absolute strangers; everyone felt like old friends.

I'm glad that I traveled up the night before the party as this gave me a wonderful opportunity to meet, hug and chat with a large number of our campaign supporters. Looking back over the party weekend I'm thankful for having made a head start in greeting many of our party guests on the Friday night as during Saturday's party I hardly got a chance to sit in my chair with having so many inspirational guests that I wanted to meet and spend time with! 

Saturday afternoon it was all hands on deck to decorate the venue in anticipation of our guests. I like to run a tight ship and our team was wonderfully accommodating to my instructions and demands. We (the founders) honestly couldn't achieve the work that we do without all of the extra hands on board which support us and aid us every step of the way, therefore from myself it's a huge THANK YOU for all that you do and have done for us. 
This year the campaign received soooo much amazing support and generosity that I'm still three weeks later trying to pass on my thanks to all that were involved in making our night so magical. We truly appreciate how lucky we are.

After a mad dash back to the hotel for a cheeky nap and to throw my party frock on I was off once again to the venue... Only this time we would be welcoming our guests. I'm not well known for my emasculate time keeping and this weekend I did absolutely nothing to dispel this myth, I ended up getting into the lift with some of our super eager party guests! Great first impressions eh. 

We knew that this year we were aiming to squish as much entertainment into the 7 hour party as possible and crikey did we fill the evening. It was lovely to see such a great turnout and everyone looked fantastic. 
It's overwhelming to be in a room filled with over 200 inspirational bellies, even more so having guests thank us for all that we do alongside sharing stories with us of how the campaign has changed or saved their lives. Many had made a real effort to dress up despite not feeling very well which takes some inner strength which we admire these bellies for. As I wasn't able to attend last years GetYourBellyOut charity evening I let my co-founders take the lead with the speeches and running order of the night knowing full well that I was in good hands; they did a marvelous job! 

The 7 hours passed in the blink of an eye. It was challenging to ensure that everything went to plan (even the surprise proposal went without a hitch whoop!) whilst trying in vain to relax and enjoy the whole evening. As I mentioned earlier, I hardly got a chance to sit in my chair before I was up on my feet once more dancing, circulating, selfie taking and hugging as many bellies as possible...same again next year maybe??

*With special thanks to Clinimed and Securicare, Vanilla Blush, Clothes2Order & Salts Medilink for their continued support Xx

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