More than 10,000 people are expected at Bruntingthorpe Proving Ground and Airfield on Sunday 15th August when supermarket giant, ASDA, stages its 10th annual charity day – On Your Marks! – to raise money for three children’s cancer charities.

The event was the brainchild of John Forde, one of ASDA’s HGV drivers, and a colleague, Christopher Goodwin, an HGV instructor, to raise funds for the family of a colleague, Mark Higginbottom, who was terminally ill with cancer.  They approached a couple of car clubs, and Bruntingthorpe, and the event – specifically for ASDA employees and their family and friends – went ahead raising £7,500.

When the two car clubs – the Lotus Car Club and the Nissan Skyline Owners Club – said they’d like to repeat the event the following year, Mark’s family said they would be delighted – but that funds raised should go to children’s cancer charities.  Since then the event has grown and grown, as have the donations to charity.  Last year, a total of £30,750 was raised with Sparks, Wishes 4 Kids and CLIC Sargent each receiving £10,250 as a result of the visitors to Bruntingthorpe having the time of their lives!

With persuasive charm, John and Chris get car clubs, owners of supercars and rally cars, truck manufacturers, stunt drivers, aircraft owners, aerobatic teams and a host of volunteers to provide a day-long round of thrills and excitement for the crowds of families attending.  And they all do so for nothing, which means every penny raised can go to the charities.  Those attending the event pay for chauffeured rides in supercars, rally cars, 4x4s, military vehicles and helicopters.  They can also pay to take the wheel of trucks and karts.  At the same time, air displays and various activities by stunt drivers and motorcyclists provide non-stop entertainment.

“We still call the event ‘On Your Marks’ as a tribute to Mark Higginbottom,” said John.  “And it sets the scene for everyone to be on their marks – ready to go and have fun!”

Whilst ASDA gave its blessing to the early events, recently the company has increased its interest, said John: “Four years ago one of the big bosses – Ian Stansfield, a director of ASDA – came along.  He was so blown away that the company has supported us ever since.  Ian will be with us again this year and we’re expecting another director – Andy Clark – as well as senior management.”

Of the many behind-the-scenes volunteers who make On Your Marks possible, John says the Walton family, owners of the proving ground and airfield, deserve special thanks.  “Without the Waltons, none of this could have happened,” said John.  “We owe the family a massive thank-you for the past events and for this year’s, in August, when we hope to raise even more money with even more visitors than a year ago.”

David Walton, managing director of the proving ground and airfield, said everyone at Bruntingthorpe was humbled when they considered the traumas and tragedies that the families supported by the three charities had suffered.  “Unless you have been there, it’s impossible to imagine the heartaches.”

And he paid tribute to John Forde’s “incredible energy and enthusiasm” in organising the event:  “The sheer scale of the sums raised speaks volumes for his caring and compassion for disadvantaged children,” he said.

About Sparks:

Sparks was founded by some of the nation’s top sportsmen and women to fund high-quality research into childhood diseases.  Every day, 70 babies are born in the UK with a life-threatening condition or an illness that will affect them and their families for life.  Sparks aims to reduce this statistic.

About Wishes 4 Kids:

Leicestershire-based Wishes 4 Kids was formed eight years ago to grant a wish for children and youngsters under 18 in Leicestershire who are life-limited, terminally ill, have experienced life-changing physical or emotional traumas, have suffered major abuse or are diagnosed as HIV positive. The Charity grants wishes for those of eighteen years and below.  Hundreds of wishes have been granted.

About CLIC Sargent:

CLIC Sargent was formed in 2005 when Sargent Cancer Care for Children – founded in 1968 as a lasting memory to conductor, organist and composer, Sir Malcolm Sargent – merged with Cancer and Leukaemia in Childhood (CLIC).  Every day in the UK, 10 families are told that their child has cancer.  CLIC Sargent supports them from that moment on.