Sunday saw the 32nd London Marathon take place, a time when 37,000 people test themselves in a gruelling 26.2 mile race in the name of charity.
The difficulties and the risks involved were thrown into sharp relief when Claire Squires, a 30-year-old volunteer fundraiser, collapsed and died whilst running for her chosen charity the Samaritans. Inspired by the help given by the charity after the death of her brother from depression, Claire aimed to raise £500. Following the sad news of her death the total raised on her JustGiving page stands this morning at over £620,000, making it the largest ever total raised for a single user’s appeal on the site. The reaction is all the more remarkable for being spontaneous, as the Samaritans has welcomed but not orchestrated the donations.
Chief Executive of the Samaritans Catherine Johnstone said:
“We desperately wish that it was not under these circumstances but we have been overwhelmed by the response from people donating in Claire’s memory. These donations will be put into a tribute fund and, following discussions with the family, will go towards projects they feel would have been important to Claire.”
The news that the funds will be spent in accordance with Claire’s wishes makes the tribute fund all the more fitting, and is a reminder of philanthropy’s power to leave a lasting legacy.
If there is any concern about the UK falling behind other countries in charitable giving, we should remember that when the chips are down, whether it be for Sport Relief, Comic Relief, Children in Need or for tragic circumstances like this, the UK public nearly always comes up trumps. Just ask the marathon runners who help raise an average of £50 million a year – and who give time, dedication and effort to match.
Each year, the marathon shows the tremendous potential for generosity from the public in terms of time and money. This year, the surge in support for the Samaritans shows what can happen when one cause is brought to public attention and has a clearly communicated aim. As well as admiring the public’s actions, charities should ask themselves what they can do differently to inform people about their work in future.