‘We raised £4,000 by competing in a dragon boat race’

Framfield CofE Primary School PTFA raised £4,000 with this unusual event.

‘In 2018 we decided to take part in the Bewl Water Dragon Boat Festival to raise funds for our school. We got together a team of rowers, including parents, teachers, our headteacher, ex-parents, friends of friends and even an ex-Oxbridge rower. A couple of people had done the race before, but we didn’t have a great deal of preparation. We got the team together and played about with kayaks on a local river, which was more about teambuilding than anything else. 

It cost £360 to take part. We had 17 people in the boat – 16 rowers and a drummer – and to be on the team you needed to personally commit to raise £100. We collected money through physical sponsorship forms. 

We borrowed a rowing machine from East Sussex National Hotel and held a rowing challenge at our fair, which promoted the event and was a great way to get the kids involved too. 

Nine local firms sponsored the event, thanks to one of our PTFA members, who wrote letters to surrounding businesses (as well as national companies with charity budgets). She asked them for £100 each, although some gave more. In exchange, we printed their logos on our T-shirts. Sponsors included John Lewis, TR Fastenings and local estate agents. Some team members also received match funding from their workplaces. 

A double stall pitch was included in the entry fee, so we ran a squishy lucky dip, sold keyrings and chocolates, and hosted a VR rollercoaster ride, which was run by a parent’s business. Dragon boat races involve quite a lot of hanging around, so having stalls worked well. 

We entered under the name “Framfield Fliers”, complete with moustaches, scarves and flying hats. A total of 52 teams entered the race, each taking part in three heats with five or six other boats. We got faster each time and came fourth out of 50 overall, beating the likes of rugby players, all-male teams and experienced rowers.

As a half-male, half-female team participating for the first time, and with one rower losing their paddle in the final, we did brilliantly. And, best of all, we raised over £4,000 for our playground redevelopment. It was a good bonding experience and lots of the rowers want to get involved in the PTA in the future. We would definitely do it again, but every two years to prevent donor fatigue.’

Emma Aylen and Monique Neeter, Framfield CofE Primary School PTFA, Framfield, East Sussex (100 pupils)