KEW Electrical managing director and chairman Geoff Kerly was briefly basking in Britain’s spring weather after a peak performance battling the freezing Arctic chill to more than triple his own charity fundraising target.
No stranger to sub-zero conditions after the `Beast from the East` deep froze the UK, Geoff felt the full force of Finland’s frosty reception in early March as he embarked on his Arctic Adventure under the `Challenge for a Cause’ appeal.
Donning his trademark orange hat as a host of sponsors waited with bated breath back home, Geoff, 59, tackled cross-country skiing, snowshoeing and husky-sledding in a three-day ordeal starting in Kuusamo on 8 March in aid of easing the plight of Caz Dickinson and her family.
“We defeated the elements as our team skied, hiked and stumbled through the arctic waste and sub-zero temperatures to complete our challenge over a total of five days, including two days flying out there and back,” Geoff reports.
“Cross-country skiing and shovelling snow to create quinzee shelters took up Day 1, snowshoeing across more than one metre-deep snow on Day 2 – like wearing tennis rackets on your feet – and the husky safari on Day 3, which saw pairs of us taking it in turns to sit on the sled then push it, often uphill.”
Geoff was bitten by the bug to compete in the Arctic Challenge last May when he heard about the Dickinson family, then set in motion a training programme to ready himself for the event.
Numbered in the team of participants were Caz’s two daughters, Jodi and Rachel, other electrical wholesalers and electrical contractors, and Joint Industry Board staff. “A good mixed group,” recalls Geoff, “and I had the opportunity to learn more about Caz.”
Also in the team was Tessa Ogle, CEO of the Electrical Industries Charity (EIC) which has launched a £0.25m appeal to help rebuild the future of the Dickinson family, after Caz, who had worked in the electrical wholesaling sector, suffered a coughing fit then slipped and hit her head in the bathroom, triggering a Grade 4 brain haemorrhage.
Paralysed from the neck down, mother and grandmother Caz then spent seven years in hospital, her husband was made redundant and the family lost their home. The EIC fundraising will be ploughed into building a new home adapted to Caz’s need for 24-hour care.
To date, Geoff has raised £19,500 against his £6,000 goal. With Gift Aid, the total’s nearing a mountainous £21,500. “I’ll have driven some people mad chasing them to sponsor me,” jokes Geoff, whose many contacts across the sector well-placed him to attract wide support from KEW staff, customers and suppliers.
He lost a few pounds preparing for his Arctic quest . “I bought a Fitbit watch and set myself the task of taking 10,000 steps a day to get a bit fitter. I’d walk round the building first when I came to work instead of going straight in and took the long way home if I’d walked somewhere. I shed three-quarters of a stone and intend to keep the weight off as I certainly feel better for it.”
Commenting on the team’s £107,000 tally raised, Tessa Ogle has special mention for Geoff. “Everyone was fantastic in what proved an amazing achievement all round. Geoff’s tireless fundraising efforts helped him record the highest individual sum raised in the charity’s history.”
No sooner had Geoff returned home than he was jetted off overseas again - a KEW Electrical skiing trip to Sweden then to Dubai to take in World Cup horse racing.
KEW Electrical places great store by supporting good causes, local and national, with many of its 24 branches working to aid community initiatives.
The Shaftesbury branch donated a parachute to local Brownies to allow them to play team games, while KEW HQ in Brighton sponsors youth cricket at Sussex County Cricket Club in nearby Hove and supports Mile Oak FC, further west along the coast at Portslade.
KEW has also raised tens of thousands of pounds over many years of supporting the Canine Partners charity that helps needy people by providing them with guide dogs.
Lymington branch meanwhile is cooking up a storm, raising £450 to date with its own bake off to aid a local hospice, one of three palliative care centres KEW Electrical outlets support.
“We love to give back to our local communities and help worthy causes in many ways,” says Geoff, “although few fundraising efforts are as extreme as the Arctic Challenge. I’m so pleased I took part.”