Off their trollies – by Louise Trott

When I first got told we had a team taking part in the Red Bull Soapbox Race for Diabetes UK my initial reaction was, ‘what on earth is that?’

So of course I immediately googled it to discover it is ‘an international event in which amateur drivers race homemade soapbox vehicles. Each hand-made machine is fuelled by nothing but sheer courage, the force of gravity and perhaps a little Red Bull.’ Well this isn’t your average fundraising event then’ I thought.

In fact, in my eight years as a fundraiser I’ve never come across such a thing, and as someone who has previously held the Guinness World Record for the ‘Most Sandcastles Built in an Hour’ (not as easy as it sounds!), witnessed people walk over hot coals, handcuffed respected businessmen and woman and sent them off to make their bail and organised one of the World’s largest Zumba classes, that’s quite a feat.

Who would want to take part in such an event I hear you ask? As it turns out for us it was Clive, (pictured top, far right) who at the sprightly age of 74 decided he would like to give it a go, and would do it to raise money for Diabetes UK because his 49 year old son has Type 1, and his golf club captain has chosen us as his charity of the year.

It’s not as simple as that though because over 7,000 people applied for a place and only 70 teams were selected. Luckily for us Clive has a vivid imagination, and conjured up the idea of creating a golf trolley from two bikes, using an old Red Bull fridge as the golf bag, and them all dressing up as air stewardesses (blonde wigs included!), creating ‘Golf Trolley Dollies’.

Two months of anticipation built up, the soapbox was created and the team cracked on with fundraising, all leading up to what would essentially be a 50 second race (if they didn’t crash!). The Sunday of the race arrived, my alarm went off at 6am to get me from Dorset to North Londn’s Alexandra Palace on time but I didn’t care because this was the day! My excitement was somewhat dampened about half way between Wood Green station and Alexandra Palace though when I realised it was about a 30 minute walk uphill in 30 degree heat in a 20,000 strong crowd. Nevertheless I cracked on with the thought that at least I will smash my 10,000 steps target for the day! Of course, I made it up the hill to the sight and smell of….fast food and beer. Eventually I found my way to the pit lanes where I witnessed more bonkers sights than I thought possible in one place. An enormous Donald Trump replica, a dinosaur on wheels, a huge block of cheese, people dressed up as horses breakdancing…’perhaps Clive isn’t so mad after all’ I remember thinking.

Battling the crowds and trying not to get too distracted by all the soapboxes, I found my way to our team who were confidently flashing some leg to the masses, posing for pictures and encouraging people to put any spare pennies in their collection boxes (they’ve already raised over £3,000 for Diabetes UK). In the short time I was standing with them, I was overwhelmed by the number of people telling us they had or knew someone with diabetes. The curious thing about being a community fundraiser is you get to meet a lot of people, from all sorts of backgrounds and quite unexpectedly, but they always reinforce to me why I do my job because I’m lucky enough to meet a lot of the people we help, and hear their stories about why our work is so important.

The races then began but we had to wait rather a long time as our team were 60th in line. Numerous crashes, smashes, cheers and smiles later it was finally the time for the ‘Golf Trolley Dollies’. Clive was introduced as a ‘living legend’ as the oldest competitor in the race (a claim to fame if ever there was one!). The team confidently pushed Clive down the hill where he proceeded to navigate the obstacles like a pro, not a crash or wobble in sight! A big hug afterwards from me, and that was it, over. Anybody want to do it next year?

Louise is Diabetes UK’s Regional Fundraiser for the South West.
Top photo – from left, Liam Clarke, Andy Beale, Daniel Pugh, Clive Fisk

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