Fundraising for Charity: BEWT Thames Rowing Challenge Preparations

May 10, 2023
Categories: ,

2020 is a year none of us will ever forget. COVID-19 changed the world, claimed millions of lives, and transformed every aspect of our daily existence. But as the Caple team know all too well, other tragedies took place, too.

On 13th May 2020, Billie Wood – beloved daughter of our service director Richard Wood – passed away after experiencing a subarachnoid haemorrhage (SAH). She was just 25 years old.

Our service director Richard devotes much of his spare time to funding research into the trauma that led to his beloved daughter Billie’s death

Banding together for Billie

In terrible times, friends and family rally around. Billie was also the niece of our managing director Danny Lay and financial director Graham Perry, and the granddaughter of our chairman Maurice Lay. The Caple family came together, not just to offer comfort and support, but to organise vital fundraising for charity.

The Billie Elizabeth Wood Trust (BEWT) was founded, to fund research into the trauma that led to Billie’s tragic death. In June 2021, Caple directors, family and friends set off to walk from one side of England to the other, along the route of Hadrian’s Wall, to raise vital funds for BEWT. Together with various other initiatives, over £200K has been raised for the charity so far.

A new fundraising for charity challenge

The River Thames is the location for the Caple team’s latest BEWT fundraising for charity challenge

Caple’s fundraising for charity, in memory of Billie, continues this year with a new project: the Thames Rowing Challenge, due to take place from 5th-9th June. Over five days, 14 of Billie’s friends and family, including Billie’s partner Josh Dubowitz and his best friend Anthony Tang, will row 85 miles along the Thames. They plan to travel in four vintage skiffs (traditional wooden rowing boats) and the journey will begin in Clifton Hampden (Clifton Lock) and end in Walton Bridge (Shepperton Lock).

It’s an ambitious challenge. Some days the team will need to row 20 miles to reach the finish line in time. And prior to signing up, most had no previous rowing experience. But Billie’s dad Richard had an extra obstacle to overcome. Not only had he never rowed a boat before, he had never learned to swim.

Determined to continue to support vital research into SAH, which took Billie away at such a young age, Richard signed up for swimming lessons. Read on to discover more about how he is preparing for this latest fundraising for charity challenge.

Pulling together
In June the Caple team will row 85 miles along the Thames, in skiffs (traditional wooden boats)

“The Thames Rowing Challenge follows on from our Hadrian’s Wall walk in 2021,” Richard notes. “Most of the people participating in the row also took part in that walk, so it was impossible to say no. Obviously, the objective is to raise as much money for BEWT as possible.”

An aquatic-themed fundraising for charity challenge might seem a strange choice for someone who has never spent much time on – or even in – the water. What was it about this Thames Rowing Challenge that was so appealing?

Pushing boundaries while fundraising for charity

“It was something I’d never even thought of before,” Richard admits. “It is way outside my comfort zone, and it will be a real challenge to complete the distance.” He adds: “I have never rowed a boat before, and therefore have no experience whatsoever. These days, swimming is regarded as an essential life skill. All schools must provide swimming lessons in Key Stage 1 or 2.

In fact, swimming is the only statutory sport within the PE programme of study. So, it’s easy to assume that everyone knows how to do it, but that’s often not the case, especially for adults. “I was never taught to swim properly as a child,” Richard reveals. “I just muddle around of a fashion. But because we will be on the water for a week, I thought it was wise to learn.”

Richard, who never learned to swim has a child, has started taking lessons, in order to participate in the latest BEWT fundraising project

Prep and planning

Richard knew he would have to prepare properly in order to do justice to this latest BEWT fundraising for charity challenge. “I started my swimming lessons in September 2022,” he confirms. “I have a great coach called Mark, from Create Fitness in Bristol.” He continues: “I have one 45-minute lesson a week, during which I am trying to master front crawl and breaststroke. In the pool I have done about 20 lengths of front crawl. However, it’s completely different to swimming in the sea or a river. I just need to be able to get to the side of the Thames if I need to.”

Swimming lessons aside, Richard walks his (six!) dogs twice a day, and plays golf once a week. “As the event draws closer, I’m also going to the gym once or twice a week, to try to get in better shape,” he explains. “Nothing much has changed with my diet. I am generally healthy so with the additional walking and gym/swimming, hopefully that will be enough to get me through this challenge.”

In addition to learning to swim, Richard is also hitting the gym to get fit for the forthcoming Thames Rowing Challenge

Fundraising for charity is a team effort

The Wood family are hugely appreciative of all the support they have received since Billie passed away. “We are a family business, and as such the company is fully committed to supporting and promoting this charity as its cause,” Richard notes and he adds: “After such a tragedy, everyone has rallied around us. So many people have done so many wonderful things to support the charity,” he adds. “It’s one big communal effort.”

This very real – and very powerful – community holds the key to completing this latest fundraising for charity challenge. Is Richard apprehensive about what lies ahead? “We are all in it together,” he replies. “So, we will all pull through. It’s going to be very tough, but the end game is so worth it.”

Grit and gratitude

Self-belief, and the determination to honour Billie’s legacy, will inspire Richard to power through. “I’m 100% confident in my abilities,” he confirms. “Even through I’ve never rowed anything in my life before, and have only just learned to swim.” As always, Richard’s love for Billie spurs him on, and gives him strength. He continues: “I like to think that Billie would be very proud of her daddy (and all the boys) for attempting this challenge.”

Richard concludes: “I would just like to thank everyone who has made a contribution. Billie would be so proud of our achievements to date, and going forward.”

Thank you for reading. Please support our fundraising for charity if you can.