Community Champions

Celebrating charity work and good deeds in the Wiltshire and Swindon business community.

Company helps get sports star to South Africa for netball world cup

Written by Peter Davison.

Abby Miles with Robert Curtis and Raj Shergill of Smarter MediaAfter months of trials and training, elite athlete Abby Miles from Swindon, has been selected to play in South Africa for the England Netball U21 team – and digital marketing agency Smarter Media are helping her get there.

Abby will be taking part in the World Cup championship in Cape Town, South Africa in August. She will play a defensive position in the tournament between Sunday August 4 and Saturday August 10.

However, to get to South Africa Abby needs to raise £3,000 to fund her ticket and her stay. She contacted local Swindon companies asking for sponsorship and Smarter Media were pleased to help.

Robert Curtis, operations director of Smarter Media, said: “Abby’s achievement is to be admired – we are all quite sporty in our office and I was impressed by her persistence and passion for her sport. We’ve donated £500 towards her trip and we will be keeping in touch to see how it goes. We’re proud to support someone who is out there putting Swindon on the map.”

Abby, aged 20, said: “I’m delighted and honoured to have been selected as one of 13 girls to represent England U21 in the Indoor Netball World Cup in my chosen sport, it’s an achievement. It’s been a lot of hard work but I am thankful to all those who’ve supported me along the way, especially Smarter Media – this company didn’t know me yet have not hesitated in taking me under their wing.”

All sponsorship and donations will pay towards the costs of flights, accommodation and travel, as well supporting Abby’s many preparation training sessions and weekend camps leading up to the event.

“I’m very thankful to be receiving financial support from local businesses to help with this tour. Without their support it would be a struggle to find the money myself.”

Abby started playing netball aged eight. She then joined a club when she started at Lydiard Park Academy. The club didn’t have a child section so Abby played and trained with the senior team.

“I love playing competitively and I love the teamwork aspect of the game. I’ve never been to South Africa and I believe that Cape Town is a lovely place, this is a lifetime opportunity. I will continue to work hard in trying to achieve Gold for England.”

To find out more about Abby visit

Solicitors stage canalside walk for charity

Written by Peter Davison.

Sponsored walkers Jonathan Frayling, Rhiannon Eveleigh, Sandra Franklin and Tara HuntleyStaff from Forrester Sylvester Mackett are breaking in their walking boots in preparation for a 13-mile slog along the Kennet and Avon Canal on 12 May, in aid of local not-for-profit Jacob’s Ladder.

Each year staff at the firm vote for a charity of the year, focusing all fundraising efforts towards that cause.

This year, FSM is working with Jacob’s Ladder, a Warminster based community organisation which supports children and young adults with special needs.

Staff at FSM are also arranging regular cake sales, dress-down days and raffles, as well as hosting collection tins at each office reception.

Anyone who would like to support the team's fundraising efforts should visit


Wiltshire IT firm’s recycling scheme gets boost from Microsoft

Written by Peter Davison.

Babs Harris and Rachel Fear of Alzheimer's Support with Priority IT managing director Kieran ThomasA Wiltshire IT firm’s computer recycling scheme has been given a boost after the company was accepted onto the Microsoft Refurbisher Program.

Priority IT refurbish redundant and unwanted laptops and computers, which are then passed on to new owners in exchange for a donation to Wiltshire charity Alzheimer’s Support.

Now the Westbury-based firm has been accepted onto the Microsoft Refurbisher Program, it hopes to increase awareness about its initiative and so raise even more funds for the charity.

“For some time, we have been refurbishing redundant PCs and laptops – of course, wiping them clean first – which we then pass on for a suggested donation to raise money for Alzheimer’s Support.

"This has already brought in about £2,000 for an excellent cause,” said Priority IT managing director Kieran Thomas.

“Most of the computers coming through are Windows 7. With Windows 7 going end of life in January 2020, we decided it was time to get on the refurbisher program, so we can upgrade the operating system to Windows 10.

“We had to take an online test to be accepted onto the Microsoft program, which we successfully passed. Now we are listed as an official partner on the Microsoft website, we should be able to reach out to more people who are looking for a refurbished computer.”

Helping to work on the refurbishments and upgrades is Trowbridge College student Harry Wareham, who is on work placement with the Priority IT team for two days a week.

Alzheimer’s Support CEO Babs Harris said: “We are delighted to be benefitting from this wonderful scheme which is recycling at its best. The money raised will help people living with dementia in Wiltshire to lead active, independent and meaningful lives.

"We need to raised £300,000 each year to support the services which make so much difference, so every penny helps. We are so grateful to Kieran and his team for supporting us.”

Microsoft said: “Microsoft refurbisher partners are implementing innovative ways to transition to a sustainable, low-carbon future for our planet, resulting in millions of PCs and all types of consumer end-of-life electronics recycling.

"A refurbished PC is a great value when you buy from a Microsoft Authorized Refurbisher—plus you have the added benefit of reducing e-waste worldwide.”

Details of the PCs and laptops currently on offer – which include Lenovo Edge models - are available via Priority IT’s website at, for a suggested donation of £50 each. The team also offer a secure data wipe service, again in aid of Alzheimer’s Support, for a donation of £20.

Wealth management firm celebrates 10-year association with literature festival

Written by Peter Davison.

Genevieve Clarke and Kay Newman of Marlborough LitFest with Myles Palmer and Teresa Norsworthy of Brewin DolphinWealth management company Brewin Dolphin has is celebrating a decade-long association with its home town's popular literature festival.

And last week, lead sponsor Brewin Dolphin staff handed over a cheque for £55,000 – representing the total its has donated since the event began – to volunteers from Marlborough LitFest.

Myles Palmer, divisional director of Brewin Dolphin, said: “As an office, we believe it is very important to be involved in local activities and we are delighted to have supported the efforts of the Marlborough LitFest since it started 10 years ago.

"The festival has been a great success and the Committee always feature a fantastic line-up of brilliant authors. Over the years, the festival has grown in popularity and is now a highlight in people’s diaries as one of the best events here in Marlborough."

Kay Newman of Marlborough LitFest, said: “The festival could not have got started in 2010 without the initial financial donation from Brewin Dolphin and is grateful for its continued support.

"It’s been great to work with Brewin Dolphin over the past 10 years and we hope this partnership can continue. As Marlborough LitFest is a charity, support from local organisations and individuals is really important to us.”

Authors announced to date for the tenth year line-up (26 to 29 September, 2019), include Chocolat author Joanne Harris, poets Ben Okri Carol Ann Duffy, crime writer Ian Rankin, and historical fiction writer Robert Harris.

Housing association staff Walk All Over Cancer – to New Zealand

Written by Peter Davison.

Colleagues Claire Seymour and Nicole Thierry walking all over cancerEmployees from housing association and house builder Aster Group have walked a total of 50 million steps throughout March – the equivalent of trekking from their Devizes HQ to New Zealand.

More than 160 colleagues took on the Walk All Over Cancer challenge, committing to walking at least 10,000 steps a day, and raising £6,207 for Cancer Research UK – their charity of the year – in the process.

Nick Johnson Cancer Research UK’s local fundraising manager for the south, said: “The employees of the Aster Group are an absolute inspiration and we can’t thank them enough for their commitment to helping Cancer Research UK beat cancer sooner. It’s a fantastic partnership.

“One in two people in the UK will be diagnosed with cancer at some stage in their lives, but the good news is more people are surviving the disease now than ever before.

"Cancer survival in the UK has doubled since the early 1970s and Cancer Research UK’s work has been at the heart of that progress.

"However, we have only been able to achieve this thanks to the dedication and generosity of volunteers and supporters like Aster Group without whom we would not be able to fund outstanding scientists, doctors and nurses.”

As part of its commitment to give back to the local community, the business match funds colleague fundraising but double match funds anything raised for CRUK to maximise the donations.

Rachel Credido, people and transformation director at Aster said: “We’re really proud to support our people in fundraising. We believe it’s a really important part of giving back, as individuals and as a business.

“It’s been inspiring to see the dedication and commitment shown by our people to the Walk All Over Cancer challenge, as demonstrated by the staggering 50 million steps.

“We’re also so pleased to double match fund the money raised for CRUK, as our chosen charity this year.”

Tech firm launches new game to help Wiltshire Air Ambulance fundraising soar

Written by Peter Davison.

Paramedic Sophie Holt with HelifunA new mobile game created for Wiltshire Air Ambulance will help the county’s lifesaving charity attract support in a fun, engaging way.

Developers at OJO Solutions, based in Bradford on Avon, have donated £15,000 worth of studio time to build the app which launches this month.

Competitors playing the game, called Helifun, need to keep their helicopter up in the air as long as possible avoiding obstacles along the way. The longer you fly the more points you earn.

Nathan Baranowski, managing director at OJO Solutions, said: “Wiltshire Air Ambulance is seeking to engage new and existing supporters in a different way, as well as to appeal to a younger demographic.

“Helifun is a simple, but fun game which brings the work of paramedics, pilots and fundraising staff to life. This is a great example of how digital technology allows you to think outside the box, to change what you do and how you do it.

“The game has already been a massive success with everyone who has tested it and we hope it will have a huge impact for the charity.”

Helifun will be used by the charity’s volunteers interacting with members of the public at events across the county. It is available to play on the Wiltshire Air Ambulance website and to download as a free app on Apple and Android devices.

Last year, OJO Solutions worked on a revamp of the Wiltshire Air Ambulance website. Three months after the refresh, which made it easier to donate online, the charity successfully raised £11,400 through digital pledges.

OJO Solutions are also members of the charity’s business networking group, The 100 Club, where companies pledge to give £10,000 over a two-year period through fundraising, as well as pro-bono work.

Mr Baranowski recently ran the Bath Half Marathon for Wiltshire Air Ambulance and he is due to tackle the Race to the Stones in July, a two-day 100km ultra-marathon across the North Wessex Downs finishing at Avebury Stone Circle.

Alongside employee Kevin Triggle, Mr Baranowski has already jumped out of a plane to raise money. The rest of the OJO team are planning to take part in a variety of challenge events over 2019 and 2020.

Adam Baker, Communications Manager at Wiltshire Air Ambulance, said: “Helifun is a great way for us to interact with people of all ages, as we look to use gamification to raise awareness of the importance of Wiltshire Air Ambulance to the county.

“Through Helifun we are also able to keep people informed of our upcoming challenge events, share key messages about volunteering and fundraising, or simply offer opportunities to donate.

“We’re very grateful to OJO Solutions for their time and effort in bringing Helifun to life. The support of local businesses is very important to us and it’s great to have OJO on board in our 100 club networking group for Wiltshire companies.”

Wiltshire Air Ambulance is operational up to 19 hours a day, 365 days a year and is called to, on average, three incidents each day. The helicopter is able to reach incidents anywhere in the county within 11 minutes.

To view the game visit


Entrepreneur becomes trustee of Wiltshire Air Ambulance

Written by Peter Davison.

James PhippsEntrepreneur James Phipps has become trustee of the Wiltshire Air Ambulance Charitable Trust.

The charity is tasked with raising the £3.75 million a year needed to keep the air ambulance flying.

The air ambulance undertook more missions in Swindon than in any other place in Wiltshire last year.

The critical care team was called out 182 times - on average every two days - to respond to serious medical and trauma incidents, including cardiac arrests, road traffic collisions, strokes and sporting accidents.

For the first three months of this year the number of call-outs in the Swindon area was 57.

James has supported Wiltshire Air Ambulance for a number of years, most notably when he was chief executive of Excalibur Group, a communications and IT business based in Swindon.

Excalibur were one of the founding members of the charity’s business networking group The 100 Club, which was initially set up to support the fundraising for the new airbase at Semington, near Melksham.

James, who has lived in Swindon all his life and was brought up on a council estate, said: “I think there are businesses in Swindon which don’t appreciate the relevance of Wiltshire Air Ambulance because they are not aware of its phenomenal work.

“But as the call out figures show Swindon was the town that Wiltshire Air Ambulance went to the most last year when responding to serious medical emergencies.

"I’m excited at becoming a trustee for the charity and using my skills and experience to help it grow its base of supporters, including among businesses.”

Among the fundraising activities that James and colleagues at Excalibur did for the charity was to sleep out in the car park at their office in freezing temperatures.

He said: “It’s vital to support Wiltshire Air Ambulance because it saves lives. It’s one of those charities that is there for everyone, it doesn’t matter what your social background is, your ethnicity or religion.

"The paramedics are trained in critical care skills and they use specialist medical equipment and these are funded by donations.

“By making a donation, fundraising or supporting the charity in some way you can make the difference between life and death.

"As a business you can support Wiltshire Air Ambulance in one of their many initiatives, including through The 100 Club, becoming a charity partner or supporting its pilot emergency care training programme.”

James, who is married with two daughters, remains involved with Excalibur as executive chairman but spends most of his time involved in several charities in Swindon and Wiltshire. He also mentors businesses, mainly start-ups.

Trustees of Wiltshire Air Ambulance Charitable Trust provide strategic leadership and give their time for free.

David Philpott, chief executive of Wiltshire Air Ambulance, said: “It has been my privilege to have known James for a number of years now, so I was delighted when he accepted our invitation to join the Wiltshire Air Ambulance board.

"James’ broad business knowledge and contacts in commerce will add to the vast array of expertise that we have on our trustee board.”

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