Every year Penguin Group employees around the world take part in a team walk in aid of a charity of the company's choice. Lorna Broomfeld, who works for Penguin UK, tells us all about this year's event in London, as well as our supported charity the Children's Reading Fund, and the challenges presented by organising so many Penguins at once.
It’s a mere 11 short days until Penguin holds it’s sixth annual, global, charity walk. Golly. The walk first began back in 2008, when a team of walkers in our London office got together to raise an incredible £25,000 for the Woodland Trust (that equates to 18,000 trees, all of which were planted by the charity in locations across the UK) but over the last five years it has become THE event of the year – and not just in London, but right across the globe too - with staff clambering for the chance to puff their Penguin chests out with pride and raise money for a very good cause (while donning extremely fetching bright orange t-shirts). When dawn breaks on Friday 14th June 2013, Penguins here in London will be joined by colleagues all over the world, from Auckland and Melbourne to New Delhi, Beijing, Sao Paulo, Johannesburg, New York, Toronto and Dublin. And the best bit is that we’ll all be united with one aim – to raise awareness of literacy and spread a love of books and reading. How very Penguin.
This is the fifth time that I have personally been involved in pulling the event together and it’s still a task that I embrace with the utmost enthusiasm. The organisation of this year’s Pride of Penguin & DK Walk (to use its official title) has been undertaken by our small, but perfectly formed, committee. We’ve been plugging away since February - it takes time to pull together an event this good, y’know – coming up with everything from the “celebration” theme (it’s about celebrating some of Penguin and DK's best authors, characters, books and the joy of reading); the route (our journey will take us to some of London’s hotspots – think Trafalgar Square, Kensington Gardens, Buckingham Palace and King’s Road, Chelsea – and to areas where some of Penguin and DK's most popular and famous literary figures have lived, worked and visited - from Dickens to Dahl and Peter Pan to Peppa Pig); the t-shirt design (which, this year, features our very own walking Penguin and has been expertly designed by our in-house designer Ben Hughes); to our charity partner (Booktrust’s Children’s Reading Fund – which helps some of the UK's most vulnerable and disadvantaged children develop and grow through the power of stories and reading).
Although our charity affiliations have moved from environmental (The Woodland Trust) to human (for the past three years literacy has become our focus – with previous partners including Room to Read and Bookaid), we always ensure that we support a cause that is close to our hearts. Last year, as well as raising funds to supply books to communities that don’t otherwise have access, we made a decision to encourage a love of reading among members of our own community – the London public - by handing out books en route. Responses ranged from the suspicious ('Nah thanks darling') to the delighted ('how kind of you, I've always wanted to read that'), and as the reactions were overwhelmingly positive – just check out the delighted faces below – we’re arranging to do the same this year. Given that we’re partnering with the Children’s Reading Fund we’re hoping to catch the imagination of children of all ages with some fantastic titles, from Charlie and the Chocolate Factory and Peppa Meets the Queen to RHS Wildlife Garden and Eyewitness Dinosaur.
Teaming up with the Children’s Reading Fund has meant that we’ve had to work closely together to design jointly branded materials and plan how the two organisations can come together on the day to get as many people as possible reading. While we’ll be giving away a fabulous orange Penguin bag containing one of the books mentioned above and some Children’s Reading Fund materials, we have also enlisted the help of two of Booktrust’s partner schools – ST Barnabus in Pimlico and Park Walk (very aptly named!) just off Fulham Road – whose pupils will be supplying our weary walkers with refreshments en route (for a donation to the cause, of course – they won’t let us off lightly!). To say a mighty big thank you, we’ll be donating a parcel of books to the school libraries and getting one of our extremely kind authors to pay the kids a visit.
As the day approaches, plans are coming together nicely. We’re at the stage of working out the boring logistical arrangements - like how and when people will collect their t-shirts and how many packets of sweets each marshall will be given to hand out to passing walkers (obviously a pretty essential detail) – encouraging (or mildly browbeating) colleagues to raise sponsorship; and dodging the throng of people who are “in training”, shunning the lifts to walk the stairs to the 6th, 7th and 8th floors.
So while I go away to practice my stair walking, bully my friends and family into donating money to the cause, and pray to the weather gods for a sunny afternoon, I bid you farewell. But remember, if you happen to be in Central London on the afternoon of the 14th June, look out for the high-vis orange Penguins, ask for a book to read to the child in your life, and spread the word about the Children’s Reading Fund – a truly fabulous cause - at #PenguinDKwalk.
To sponsor us on the Pride of Penguin/DK walk, please visit our JustGiving page here.