Children in Need says "Thank You"

Tuesday 18 May 2010, 16:52

Gilda Witte Gilda Witte

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It's an exciting week in BBC Children in Need's busy calendar. On the Chris Evans show, Sir Terry Wogan announced our biggest total in the history of the charity: a whopping £39million.

The 2009 telethon kick-started this year's Appeal, raising £20.3million, and since then we have been overwhelmed by the generosity of the British public, which has seen the total almost double. Last year marked the 30th anniversary of the Appeal, which makes the record even more special, and we hope the public will come out in force once more this year and support us.

Sir Terry Wogan and varies celebrities on the Children in Need stage

It's remarkable to think that the BBC launched its first broadcast appeal for children in 1927 through a five-minute radio programme on Christmas Day. It raised £1,143 18s 3d and the proceeds were shared with four prominent children's charities. In 1980 the appeal was broadcast on BBC One in a new telethon format, hosted by Sir Terry with Sue Lawley and Esther Rantzen. We have come a long way in 30 years and raised a lot of cash.

The show has evolved to become one of the highlights of BBC One's entertainment calendar and last year saw audience figures peak at 12.5 million, with the great and the good of the worlds of showbiz and entertainment appearing to help raise the roof for Pudsey. So a big thanks to everyone who has helped in any way to raise money for the charity - we really do appreciate it, as do the children's charities who benefit from the grants we give.

The first Pudsey bear

Pudsey has also changed through the years from the very sad-looking brown bear with the red and white spotty eyepatch who graced our screens back in 1980, to the fresh-faced bear of today that we know and love, his last makeover happening in 2007. The first teddy bear Pudsey still exists in the BBC archives, having been usurped by the sunny yellow bear who graces T-shirts and much more up and down the country.

I think the great thing about BBC Children in Need is that it is the people's charity. It is the fundraisers and supporters who take the initiative and create events across the UK in order to help us raise funds for disadvantaged children. We hear some great stories of what the nation is up to - the imagination of the UK knows no bounds! From a marathon space-hopper race and walking from Spain to Cornwall, to a spotty hug-a-thon and a sponsored ghost hunt, it can be quite overwhelming when you hear the lengths people go to for us.

It's important for us to empower our fundraisers and make sure they enjoy raising money for Children in Need. In some ways it's their charity, not ours - we are just looking after it, making sure it's still a great entertainment-based charity for the next generation to enjoy. Lots of our fundraisers are kids, growing up with the simple message about children in the UK helping other children. It's quite humbling really.

Children dancing

You can see some of the children the charity has helped thanks to the generosity of the great British public on our website. We work hard with our grantees to locate and showcase a range of the great stories behind the projects we fund on the telethon. This is really important as it shows how the money that people work incredibly hard to raise and donate is helping to make a real difference to young lives, while also encouraging further engagement with us.

This week also marks the second of our four annual grant rounds. It means that to date we have given out nearly half of our total pot to help disadvantaged children all across the UK.

Last week I went to a project called Sense Scotland based in Glasgow. They provide services to help children who have a range of profound sensory disabilities. Sense Scotland received a BBC Children in Need grant of £333,000 a few years ago to build a children's wing, and since then they have been able to secure millions of additional funding to extend their facilities in order to help more people.

It is really rewarding to be able to see that the money works hard for years after it is first awarded and to speak to the people our funding is helping.

We are also pleased to have been highlighted as a focus in the Strategy Review where we were identified as one of the events that bring communities and the nation together. BBC Children in Need is very much a national occasion with real local relevance and can create real community cohesion across the UK.

Gilda Witte is Director of Marketing and Fundraising, BBC Children in Need

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