Barclays dives in to save local swim club
Swimming coach Amy Rodger spent months fundraising to take the young members of her club to Lanzarote for intensive training. When the airline they booked flights with collapsed suddenly, it looked as though the donations might be lost and the trip cancelled – until Barclays stepped in.
“Everyone thinks that you prepare for this, but the reality is you never think it’s going to happen to you.”
Swimming coach Amy Rodger didn’t know how to tell the students at her Southampton-based club that they would no longer be going on a trip of a lifetime to Lanzarote – one they had spent months raising money and preparing for.
Hamble Aquatics Swimming Club, established in 1997 and host to 55 competitive swimmers aged between seven and 16, planned the trip to mark its 20th anniversary. “I wanted to do something special to celebrate that,” Amy explains.
The group of 19 swimmers at the club were left bereft when they found out that the airline they had booked £26,000-worth of flights and accommodation with had gone into administration – one week before they were due to fly. Not only that: due to a technicality, they were not entitled to a refund.
“It was just panic, pure panic,” says Amy, thinking back to the moment when she switched on the morning news and saw the headline: ‘Airline collapses. All flights cancelled’.
It was just panic. Pure panic
Knowing how much the trip meant to her students – and how much effort had been made to provide the kids with an “action packed week” of training at Club La Santa, a sports resort in Lanzarote, Spain – made breaking the news to them all the harder.
In the months leading up to the trip, the teammates spent weekends organising bake sales, packing people’s shopping at the supermarket and rallying family members to raise the funds needed.
“Some parents had sacrificed holidays as families, so there was a lot riding on these guys going away,” explains Amy.
The upcoming trip – which the team were hoping to use as an opportunity to prepare for county, regional and national championships the following year – also inspired the team to ramp up their training. “It gave us the motivation to train as hard as we possibly could to get the most out of the experience,” says team member Sophie Hamilton.
“There were tears,” says Amy. “There were kids who were too upset to swim.”
Barclays were on hand to help
As a last resort, Amy contacted the club’s bank, Barclays, through Facebook – explaining the team’s situation and asking for support. Mark Richardson, who works in the bank’s social media team in Sunderland, UK, picked up the message soon after and instantly felt he had a duty to help.
“What really touched my heart was that all the transactions into the account were kids’ names,” he says. “I thought, ‘what if that had happened to me?’.
“I know how difficult it was for my mum to save up and send me on a trip, so how horrible must it have been for them to finally get the money, think they were going to be travelling with their friends – and then have it taken away? I decided I needed to do something about it.”
Mark describes how, because of a technicality to do with the way they’d make the payment, Hamble was “stuck between a rock and a hard place”, without the right to a refund.
After canvassing his colleagues and finding lots of support, Mark reached out to the team in London and before long, Barclays had stepped in and saved the trip by giving the team more than £9,000 to book new flights.
Some parents had sacrificed holidays as families, so there was a lot riding on these guys going away
“Barclays paid for the flights, and then in addition to that an extra one thousand pounds which covered the costs of the new flights we had managed to find. Banks don’t always get the best rep in terms of helping people out – but this really showed that there is good out there,” says Amy.
And the kids’ reaction?
“I was bombarded with hugs, squeezes and high fives. Everyone was buzzing, and there was just such a team spirit.”
Amy and the team weren’t the only ones “buzzing”. For Mark and his colleagues, being able to help in such an immediate way made it a particularly memorable day at work.