Andy’s story: Getting my company involved


Andy and his colleagues smiling and laughing at the Dragon Boat Race

After a diving accident in 1996, Andy’s life changed dramatically when he sustained a spinal cord injury and spent months at Stoke Mandeville, National Spinal Injuries Centre at the age of 20.

“It’s difficult to imagine how dark the first few months of my rehabilitation were, even now. I was 20 years old, an active guy doing loads of sport, football captain on my university team. You’ve got this plan of life ahead of you and, all of a sudden, it’s literally going from one extreme to another. I was stuck looking at one spot on the ceiling, scared of what the future might hold,” Andy says.

The support of family and friends got Andy through the early months, alongside the care he received from the hospital. When he finished his rehabilitation nine months later, it was a matter of days before he was on a course with Back Up.

“When I talk about Back Up, the thing I mention is going straight onto Back Up’s multi-activity course in the Lake District.

“It was a real baptism of fire, getting out in the rain and the great outdoors after being in hospital for so long. It was a really good springboard to go forward.”

Andy found that getting involved with Back Up so soon after his injury was extremely beneficial, particularly as he was still uncertain about adapting to life as a wheelchair user. “It was good to be out and about and being active. Back Up shows you that you can be a little bit more robust in the way you look after yourself. If you take care, your body’s not going to fall apart, and you can do many things.”

Andy took this same approach towards returning to education, and later, work. “Once you’re back on track, you start making plans, the same as everyone else. You finish university and the rest of your peer group are joining graduate programs and moving to London, so I followed suit.”

It wasn’t long before he got onto a graduate programme which eventually led to him joining HSBC’s digital marketing team Back Up stayed in touch with Andy and the Dragon Boat Race soon came up in conversations. Andy discovered that it was taking place close to where he worked.

“I asked a few people in the office, people seemed to be quite keen. I think when you’re asking people to do any kind of fundraising or volunteering, it’s always great when it’s a fun thing for them to do.”

As well as an opportunity to raise money towards Back Up’s work, Andy noted that it was also a great opportunity for team building.

Andy's colleagues at the Dragon Boat Race

Andy’s colleagues at the Dragon Boat Race

“I think the first time we did it was my favourite because we took a group of people who didn’t really know each other very well. There was a mix of different grades, from senior to junior. It was really interesting because you shove them all onto the same boat and within 10 minutes, they were all high-fiving and hugging each other. You can really see a group of individuals become a team within a matter of minutes.”

Andy with two of his colleagues at the Dragon Boat Race

Andy with two of his colleagues

Andy’s colleagues enjoyed the experience so much that they’ve entered at least one team into the Dragon Boat Race every year since 2014. He finds that while it helps break down barriers in the workplace, it also helps raise awareness around spinal cord injury without him having to explain it. There’s also an element of personal satisfaction for Andy.

“I quite like organising things and bringing people together. I also believe in what Back Up does. It’s a great charity with a very clear mission of what it’s setting out to achieve.

“I’ve benefited from it, as well as many others, so it’s good to support a charity whose work I know is going to make a real difference.”

This year, Andy’s team won the top fundraiser award at the event, raising £3,500, much of which will be matched by HSBC through their pound for pound programme in the UK.

To find out more about the Dragon Boat Race or the many other ways you could get your company involved with Back Up, please email Tim, our Corporate Fundraising Manager, or call him on 020 8875 1805.