From ‘Copters To Collections: An Interview With Ex-Guardsman, Graham Tooley

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A rounding off of our charity work for this year in association with The Royal British Legion.

Words by Hollie Rowland

As November has now drawn to a close and we approach the end of another year, we had one final thing to attend to as part of the WW1 centenary memorial. Our marketing director, Louise Catterall, paid a visit to Graham Tooley - a donations collector for the Royal British Legion local to us here in West Sussex.

Graham was part of the Welsh Guards, speaking his rank as Guardsman and service number aloud with great pleasure when asked; he went on to describe his path to becoming a helicopter pilot and thus a staff sergeant as a result of obtaining his license. He has been collecting on behalf of Arundel’s RBL branch for a number of years in Madehurst village, but this year managed to break his own collection records with a personal total of £295.

Louise, who is local to the area in which Graham collects, was inspired by his efforts and also by the impact of the Tower of London poppy installation; she then decided to design the image which featured on our exclusive centenary memorial t-shirts: a larger poppy made up of many smaller poppies. This image encapsulated the message of the installation site, which is to remember each and every person who made the ultimate sacrifice on all of our behalves.

Here at Krowmark, we like to integrate our charity work with that of the efforts of the local community, therefore the t-shirts remained on sale throughout the time in which the installation stood. All of our proceeds were then rounded up and added to Graham’s efforts, amounting to a grand total of nearly £500 for him to then pass on to RBL Arundel.

According to Graham, there has been an influx of donations in relation to the centenary installation’s presence this year, he stated that the public “seem to be much more aware of the RBL and their purpose” than previously; he also expressed that he was glad to answer the array of questions from the surprising number of young people he met upon visiting the site himself, describing the experience as “very humbling while overwhelmed with many tears you could fill up a bucket”.

When asked to describe what the poppy symbol means to him, he replied “all those millions gave their lives, for what change I do not know, because we’re still at war. But those guys gave everything”, the tone and waver of his voice imploring the boundless respect we should all have for those lost and represented by each poppy at the site.

Throughout the conversation, the ex-guardsman indicated that the camaraderie felt amongst service personnel, past and present, never leaves you. He noted that “when you’re in your ‘civies’, you still recognise one another, you don’t walk past an old comrade. That’s what the army’s all about, you’re friends for life”.

As most people are aware, the money that is donated in support of the RBL goes towards assisting wounded soldiers and ex-service-personnel, alongside helping the families that have to live on without them. According to their 2013 financial report: “for every £1 raised, [they] spend 77p on charitable activities”, or 77%. This puts their actual charitable percentage above that of many other popular charities in the UK, among which the average percentage is roughly “three quarters” or 75%. Graham explained that his good friend of 50 years, Bill Elliot, received life-changing cataract surgery funded by the RBL which enabled him to see again in one eye.

With regard to helping the RBL during the rest of the year outside of memorial season, he suggested that there are service personnel in hospitals all over the UK that would not turn down visitation and a chat from members of the public, should people wish to donate their time instead of funds.

We at Krowmark wish Graham all the best with his future endeavours; we continue to support RBL and other charities.

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Hollie Rowland
since: 08/2010
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Krowmark Ltd
since: 07/2011
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