As you probably know by now, here at GVG, we donate 10% of every purchase to charity. Yep, every single purchase - but why I hear you ask? Well, let me tell you the whole story from the very start....
I'm going to take you all right back to 2015, the year we all knew the words to 'Uptown Funk', watched 'Star Wars - The Force Awakens' and the year that changed my life.
In August 2015, I witnessed something quite traumatic which I will never forget. I won't get into too much detail - just know that it was a hard thing to see as a 24 year old and very difficult to process what happened. After this event, I was obviously very emotional. Losing a family member is always tough, and grief is a natural process for us all to go through. However the grief began to get worse and worse, to where I began to struggle daily.
After a couple of months of feeling like this, I went to see my GP to see if could get some medication to help me sleep. I was exhausted and sure if I could sleep, I'd begin to feel better. Instead, the doctor told me that my symptoms were reflective of PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder). Sorry, what?! PTSD?! I beg your pardon... I thought it only effected the emergency and armed forces, you know, those who really see awful things multiple times? Yet, I was a 24 year old who thought her grief was a little heavier that usual and just wanted to sleep but instead was being diagnosed with a mental health disorder.
So I arranged to see a counsellor and began to have sessions weekly to discuss what I was feeling and what I was going through. It was tough though, a lot of tears, used tissues and a lot of understanding the process of grief. Weirdly enough, I never thought I would be 'that' person to seek help for mental health, but boy, did I begin to feel better? It just felt good to talk to someone who didn't know anything about me but could understand what I was feeling. To chat, vent, cry, sit in silence, without judgement.
On my last session, my counsellor asked, "Claire, do you do much exercise?", I laughed (snorted) though my nose and said I can definitely do more. She began to tell me that she was training for a half marathon, and it could be something to think about. I must have had some look on my face because she began to laugh and told me "you're young, healthy and have two legs, there's no reason you can't do it'. She mentioned that the Reading Half Marathon was coming up in the next few months and maybe find a charity to support for the run, as giving yourself a challenge to work to and having the potential to reach it would work wonders for me.
Driving back from the session, I decided to go for it. Yes, I'd never ran before, I didn't even like it on school sport days but what did I have to lose apart from potentially getting a couple of blisters and sore muscles.
I found a local charity based in Reading, called Daisy's Dream (who I still support now through GVG Accessories!). They support children through bereavement and when a loved one has been diagnosed with a serious illness. It seemed like the perfect fit and knowing that I was helping a child go through what I was experiencing meant a lot to me. So I signed up for the Reading Half Marathon, got in touch with Daisy's Dream and began my training, couch to 5k then stepping it up an extra mile each week.
And then, a few days into 2016, I got the phone call that no child wants to hear. My mum said "it's not good news, chick" and told me that she had been diagnosed with Multiple Myeloma, an incurable form of blood cancer. Multiple what now? For those who haven't heard of this before, you're not alone. Stupidly, I googled it after the phone call and read the description and the stats. They're not great and I struggled to understand it all, after just 1 month after my last counselling session.
After the diagnosis, mum began her treatment straight away and if she wasn't going to let this get her down, I couldn't let myself either. As Daisy's Dream supports children through bereavement and grief, they also support children when a loved one has been diagnosed with a serious illness. I'd been handed this double whammy within the space of 5 months and couldn't even begin to comprehend how a child could understand it, if I was struggling as an adult. So I trained harder, tried to raise as much money as possible to support Daisy's Dream, to help as many children as I can get through these dark places.
The day of the run came around and although my mum and family couldn't make it (she'd started her radiotherapy treatment), my wonderful friends came to support me. I'd been training but I still felt very, VERY unprepared. Here I am, smiling before a world of pain!
The miles started to come and go and I was feeling good-ish until mile 9 came. I began to struggle physically, my legs began to tense up and felt like heavy tree trunks, I could feel blisters forming and my energy was low but mentally, all I could think was 'you've gone through so much that felt worse, do this for the kids who need help'. That got me put one foot in front of the other and finished the half marathon (time was 2 hours 32 mins for any runners out there!) and I raised over £400 for Daisy's Dream.
The money I had raised went to counselling session for children and knowing that I had helped them through the pain that I had felt meant so much. It could have been the endorphins, but I gave me such a wonderful feeling - a mix of fulfilment, contentment and achievement.
I had got the 'giving' bug and I ran the Reading Half Marathon again in 2017. This time for Myeloma UK in 2 hours 20 mins and raised over £1100 to support their wonderful work for Myeloma patients and their families. Mum was strong enough to watch me finish the run and I cried when I saw her as I crossed the finish line. Here's me with my foil blanket!
I think it's safe to say that giving back and supporting others, whether it's a friend in need or donating to a charity each month, helped me through a tough part in my life and supported my mental health issues. I think a lot of people who have suffered and braved through anything painful or upsetting would say the same. Whether it's a cancer diagnosis, supporting the armed forces or helping animals live their best life, there's a charity out there that we can support, and trust me, it feels great doing it.
So fast forward to 2019 when I decided to set up my own business and I was sat in my bed, figuring out what I wanted to do. They always say "do something you're passionate about and you'll never work a day in your life". So that's exactly what I did. Donating and supporting charities was something I wanted to do from day 1 and guess which charity I partnered with first.... yep you've guessed it... Daisy's Dream.
I'm so proud to say that GVG is now partnered with 7 amazing charities who all work for so many worthy causes. Each and every one is something which means so much to me, and I'm sure they will resonate with so many others. Each bag features something colourful, whether it's the leather colour or the lining, which represents the charity you're donating too. Here's the charities that we support through GVG...
It's my dream that when someone sees a GVG bag, whether it's the pink leather or the yellow lining, they'll remember the amazing thing that they have done - supporting a charity and their amazing cause.
So there you have it, it's a long story but that's the nitty gritty to why I donate to charity with every purchase.
Until next time,
P.s I'll share more on my mental health in an upcoming blog post. That's a tale which is very long and could get quite emotional but it's my hope that it could help someone out there.
If you are struggling with PTSD or other mental health symptoms, please don't sit in silence. There are people, services and charities who can and would love to support you through your journey. Go for a walk and chat to someone you trust, sometimes it helps talking to someone you don't know or visit the GP.