BGL Group reach rowing charity target in raising money for Zambia

BGL Group reach rowing charity target in raising money for Zambia
BGL Group reach rowing charity target in raising money for Zambia

A charity rowing challenge target has been smashed thanks to local Meldreth businesswoman Jen Townsend, whose company 12 Degrees, came up with the innovative event concept for client BGL Group, a major financial services company.

BGL Group’s Executive Board and 38 employees – all rowing rookies – rowed 66km along the River Thames in a bid to raise £30,000 for charity. In the end, a staggering £40,000 was raised despite a broken rudder which threatened to sink the attempt within the first 10km stretch. Sheer determination kept them going, along with the help of former Beijing Olympic rower Carla Devlin, who acted as coach and mentor throughout.

12 Degrees came up with the winning concept and organised every aspect of the event from training to the on-the-day safety and crew support. Jen explains: “The original brief from BGL was to create something which promoted team bonding and the wellbeing of their employees which also underpinned its CSR goals.

“Rowing seemed like the ideal sport and the participants really dug deep and pushed their boundaries, right from the initial training stages through to the event. Conditions on the day were definitely challenging, with the river level rising seven inches overnight but the team adapted well and completed the row ahead of schedule. Their perseverance and hard work certainly paid off in the end with an extra £10,000 raised for charity ahead of their original target of £30,000.”

The BGL Challenge took place on Saturday 26 April for a planned 11-hour journey, which took in famous landmarks including Hampton Court Palace, Windsor Castle and Kew Gardens. Challengers took turns to row and negotiate locks, in a four man coxed boat, putting techniques learnt at Peterborough Rowing Lake into practice.

Despite the broken rudder and choppy sections of the Thames, the team crossed the finish line at London Rowing Club, in Putney, ahead of time. Well-wishers cheered them on and congratulated them, both for the enormity of the challenge as well as the months of training, taking them from complete novices to competent rowers.

Matthew Donaldson, Chief Executive Officer, BGL Group was delighted with the work undertaken by Jen Townsend and her team commenting: “The challenge and the training leading up to it was a huge success with a number of people achieving something they thought impossible at the outset. I was delighted with how the day went, thanks to the planning, organisation and enthusiasm from 12 Degrees. The teams looked relaxed and professional as they rowed down the river – to my untrained eye of course!”

The money raised by the challenge will be used towards improving education facilities in Zambia, with the help of BGL’s charity partner, Build It International. This building project consists of three classrooms, a new sanitation block and a house for teachers, which will be funded exclusively by the BGL Group.

The latest charity challenge forms part of the BGL Group’s target to donate three million pounds to worthwhile causes by 2017, with an overarching theme to ‘Reduce Poverty and Create Prosperity’. To help raise funds and awareness of the build in Zambia, 20 employees are planning to visit the community and school in May.

Louisa Roberts, BGL employee and rower, said: “What an amazing day! Pulling together to make it through the wind and waves for the final push into London Rowing Club is something I’ll never forget. It was so rewarding to be part of this team effort to row 66km together and raise so much money for Zambia in the process. I now have the rowing bug and I’m keen to continue using my new found skills. Bring on the next challenge!”

Donations can still be made at

See how the day unfolded on BGL’s Facebook and Twitter pages #BGLRowingChallenge

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