Tour de Branch – Charity Cycle Challenge

Tour_de_Branch Tour_de_Branch

Our biggest charity event to date for Children with Cancer UK.

In June 2019, RS Components embarked on it’s biggest charity event ever, in an attempt to raise £250,000 for Children with Cancer UK.

The “Tour de Branch'' centered around a group of employees cycling 1,100 miles over 12 days across the length and breadth of the country. Starting off at our RS local branch in Aberdeen, the cyclists would ride to each of our other local branches in Glasgow, Newcastle, Manchester, Leeds, Nottingham, Corby, Nuneaton, Birmingham, South Wales, Bristol, Southampton, Gatwick, Heathrow, Watford and Bermondsey before finishing at our London HQ in Kings Cross.

The planned route
The planned route

Planning for the event took close to 18 months and involved a great number of employees, from all different functions, helping to shape and execute it - all on top of their day-to-day roles. Project Manager, Suzie Hutchings said, “When I originally agreed to take on the role of Project Manager, I had no idea that the event was going to grow to be so big and take up so much time. My normal role here is as the Candidate Experience Manager, so this was a great opportunity for me to get involved in something different and help the business to achieve something incredible”.

RS Components began supporting Children with Cancer UK shortly after EMEA President, Mike England, joined the company. Mike explains, “In 2006 my eldest son was diagnosed with cancer. It was a very difficult time for the whole family and the support that we received from Children with Cancer UK was invaluable. When I joined RS and found that they were in the process of identifying a new charitable partner, it seemed like a perfect opportunity to help them out and give something back”.

During the first year of the relationship, RS employees ran marathons, skydived, organised football games and held bake sales - raising a fantastic, £250,000. As they looked forward to the second year of the relationship however, the business was keen to do something bigger, bolder and match that amount in a single event. After several internal discussions, the idea of a branch-to-branch bike ride was devised and the “Tour de Branch” was born.

Planning started immediately and Suzie brought together a project team from across the business to help work on the event. Furthermore, RS brought in an external cycling specialist company, who had supported the likes of Davina McCall and Zoe Ball, when they had conducted charity rides across the country.

Within a few short months, a route had been identified and registration was open for the entire business, as we sought to get as many colleagues involved as possible. We were astonished to see so many people sign-up within the first few days, and even more staggered when some colleagues expressed their desire to cycle the entire 1,100 miles!

Some of the cyclists
Some of the cyclists

Senior Product Owner and Tour de Branch cyclist, Alan Mears reflected, “For me, it was a no-brainer. As a keen cyclist I’d been part of the group that came up with the original idea and this drove me even more to do the whole thing. I knew that it would be tough, but I also knew that this was one of those ‘once in a lifetime’ kind of moments - and something that if I didn’t do, I would regret”.

Graphic Designer and cyclist, Chris Chapman went on to explain, “I was one of the first people through the door asking if I could do the whole thing. I was super keen but a little apprehensive about being away from home for 2 weeks. Fortunately, RS couldn’t have been more supportive. They kindly offered to allow me and the other cyclists that were planning on doing the whole thing, paid leave which didn’t come out of my holiday allowance. They realised that this was a massive commitment for many of us and we were all humbled by their kind gesture”.

In total, 4 employees chose to cycle the whole thing and a further 56 signed-up to cycle a minimum of one-leg - which sounds fine until you learn that nearly every leg was around 100 miles!

The core cyclists
Core Cyclists

The cyclists got to work immediately and set up WhatsApp groups, Strava groups and a Facebook page to help share their personal training stories/struggles. Several spinathon classes were set up to help put the cyclists through their paces and weekly rides were organised to help with team bonding and training.

In the background, the project team were busy working with Children with Cancer UK to maximise the exposure of the event and also our key suppliers to help boost sponsorship.

By the time the cyclists set off from Aberdeen on Friday 7th June, £200k had already been raised to support the charity and we’d been able to secure Olympic gold-medallist, Greg Rutherford, to be the official face of the event, as well as secure a key radio slot on Chris Evans’ breakfast show to help with promotion.

Greg Rutherford and Chris Evans
Greg and Chris Evans

Over 12 long days - of which it rained for 10 - the cyclists went through every emotion thinkable; from nerves at the start, to extreme pain and insomnia from the constant strain they were putting their bodies under as the days and miles went by. There were lots of laughs along the way but equally, a lot of tears and the constant thought in their minds about why they were doing this; to help save children's lives.

In the UK, 12 families every single day get told the devastating news that their child has cancer and even though survival rates are significantly higher than they were 20 years ago, there’s still so much we can all do to help make sure that in the future, nobody has to suffer with cancer.

When the cyclists reached our London HQ on Wednesday 19th June, they were met with an incredible reception. To the business, these colleagues and cyclists were now heroes and that’s how they were welcomed. With smiles, rapturous applause - and a few more tears - it was with great joy that we were able to share with the cyclists that they had raised a total of £230,000.

Arrival at London HQ
Arrival at London HQ

Over the next few months the donations kept rolling in!

On19th December - exactly 6 months after the Tour de Branch had finished, the cyclists and core project team visited Children with Cancer UK at their HQ, opposite Great Ormond Street Hospital, and presented them with a cheque for £250,000 - meaning that in 2 years, RS had managed to raise half a million pounds for CWC UK.

Presenting the cheque
Handing over the cheque

A huge thank you to all of the cyclists that took part, our friends at Children with Cancer UK, Greg Rutherford, Chris Evans, BBC Northamptonshire, Andy Cook cycling and everyone at RS who got involved to help make the event such a huge success.

Furthermore, we’d like to extend a very special thank you to all of our suppliers and partners who supported the event; SAP, Adobe, Karcher, BOX, Dimension Data, SDL, ATOS, TCFM, Elektro-Automatik, Oracle, Computer Centre, Lapp Group, Weidmuller, Druck, Rocol, Norbar, Ansmann Energy, Dormer, Knipex, Godel Tech, Verco, LS Starrett, SNA Europe, eClerx, Mersen, Ledco, KeysightTechnologies, Eaton, Testec Elektronik, Makita UK, Rencol and Bosch Power Tools UK

Tour de Branch - the Stats
The Stats
Read how we tracked the team across the whole of the UK here

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