Like most good ideas, it started in a pub. Seven years on and John Burton’s annual clay shoot day has raised almost £50,000 for the Ellen MacArthur Cancer Trust! That’s more than 80 new young people supported.
John is a familiar face to the young people as a volunteer and Mate on what will be 15 Trust trips by the end of this summer. But it’s what he does ‘out of season’ that has such a massive impact on the lives of so many young people in recovery too.
The Worcestershire sailor first got involved in the Trust when he joined his then skipper brother, Mark, in taking the Trust yacht, Moonspray, on pre-season run-out in 2012. Amongst the crew was a young person and now Trust volunteer, Larvell, and hearing about the impact of the Trust on Larvell’s life convinced John to do more.
He picks up the story.
“Conversations with Larvell made me realise what a profound effect the Trust had had on his life post-cancer treatment and I saw an opportunity to combine my love of sailing with doing something worthwhile for a great cause.
“Getting to go sailing and to personally see the effect on the young people – from the ‘Rabbit in the headlamps’ on the first day, to developing into confident individuals, taking part and coming out of themselves during the trip to being a different person by the final day – it’s a win-win for me every time.”
John’s first clay shoot day took place in March 2013 and has taken place at the same venue, the Hereford and Worcester Shooting Ground in Redditch, every year since.
This year’s event on Thursday 21 March saw 60 people – 15 teams of four – competing, with the winning team as always taking home the ‘Simon R Burton Trophy’, named in memory of John and Mark’s brother who sadly passed away from leukaemia in 2004.
The day kicks off with a breakfast, then practice shoot followed by lunch, which includes an auction of promises and other donated items John has collected over the over the year. The team competition shoot is in the afternoon.
Amongst those lending their support this year were young person and now Trust skipper, Hannah Spencer.
Hearing her story really brought home to the mix of John’s friends, local companies and larger independent businesses taking part the very real difference them enjoying a fun day clay shooting could make.
John continues: “Hannah’s talk went from her diagnosis, through treatment, relapse and further treatment. She outlined how her experiences on the trips she went on as a young person, both sailing and shore-based, and how it had introduced her to a love of sailing that now includes her skippering for the Trust.
“She really communicated how seeing adults like her thriving really helps new young people on trips to see there is life after treatment and that anything’s possible. She was great and all in the room were captivated by her talk.”
Aiming for success
John works to make the clay shoot self-supporting, with all sponsorship and donations going direct to the Trust along with monies raised on the day from the raffle and auction. The trophy has 10 individual shields on it so he is committed to at least another three years but admits it could go on if the current support continues.
If organising a fundraising day wasn’t enough every year, John has abseiled down the Spinnaker Tower in Portsmouth too.
Meanwhile as his employer, Air BP has a time matching scheme as part of a Global Charity foundation, he is effectively fundraising while he is volunteering too.
John concludes: “The period post treatment can it seems be a lonely place for the young people and, in my experience, they benefit from being with their peers, who have perhaps had similar experiences.
“Sharing these experiences in the unique trip atmosphere has in innumerable cases developed into firm friendships, forming a great support network, facilitated by their experience with the Trust. Every trip has its standout moments, there are too many to recall a single one, but what the Trust does clearly works.”