‘Specsavers just called. They want to donate a £125 voucher!’
Even though it’s just a piece of paper, we’re not sure there’s any more space left in Natalie Ellender’s spare room. You can barely see the carpet as it stands.
Natalie has been planning the humble sounding Free Charity Bake a Cake and Coffee Family Fun Day for the last few months. Now her spare room is completely overrun with prizes and donations from pretty much every business in Armthorpe, a village on the eastern outskirts of Doncaster.
There’s a few dozen bottles of mineral water stacked next to the window. Several stuffed shopping bags are propped up beside some a crates of beer. There are some very fancy-looking boxes. The table is covered in chocolate bars, colouring books, and all sorts of small, colourful items. Each has a raffle ticket carefully taped on for the tombola. It’s a treasure trove of lovely things. And it’s getting more and more stuffed as the weekend approaches.
And we’re not exaggerating. When we speak to Natalie a couple of weeks before the event, she begins listing off all of the items that have been donated, from a handmade fascinator worth £160 to cinema tickets to gift vouchers to handmade gifts to beauty treatments to hampers to a showstopper cake… And that’s just the prizes. Natalie has rounded up entertainers, stall holders and volunteers to help out on what promises to be a memorable day.
‘There’s a balloon arch – a massive balloon arch!’ She’s pretty much thought of everything to make the event entertaining for all of the guests and meaningful for Sarcoma UK.
Natalie’s enthusiasm is very infectious. Speak to her for just a couple of minutes and you can see why local businesses are signing up for the event on 29 July, why friends and family are giving so generously of their time and why B&M, Morrisons, Sainsburys and Spar are providing all of the food and drink. When Natalie talks about her plans to raise funds and awareness for Sarcoma UK, she means it. That kind of sincerity brings people on board.
But it’s not just Natalie’s sincerity that has made her take on this pretty epic challenge. It’s anger.
When someone very close told her that she had sarcoma, Natalie, like most people, had no idea what it was. ‘I’d never heard of it. I felt helpless. How come nobody knows? It made me feel quite sad.’
Natalie began to do her research about sarcoma and Sarcoma UK. ‘It made me mad that Sarcoma UK are so dependent on fundraising.’ Natalie took up the question of funding with her local MP, Dame Rosie Winterton, and received a sympathetic response, but Natalie wants more.
And she’ll get more. We have met few people as driven. She works full time at Whitby’s in Doncaster, has a partner and a five-year-old daughter, Emily. ‘I never stop. I never rest.’
Someone asked Natalie if she was ‘the Bob Geldof of Armthorpe’. Is the comparison with Sir Bob, top fundraiser and activist, warranted? ‘When I do something, I do it 200%. Maybe I’m a bit cheeky. Maybe I’m persuasive. But I know a lot of people and I just go for it!’
Armthorpe, and maybe the House of Commons, won’t know what hit it.
If you’re in the Doncaster area on 29 July, make your way to the Free Charity Bake a Cake and Coffee Family Fun Day. We are very grateful to Natalie and all of the community of Armthorpe. The fun kicks off at 10am.