“If we’re not made aware, we can’t begin to help.”
That’s always been Eleanor Bowman’s ethos, and it remains so to this day as the charity she started with her husband Sandy prepares to mark its 30th anniversary.
Many might know it as the East Neuk Wheelchair Appeal, The Craw’s Nest Wheelchair Appeal, or its latest guise as The Craws Nest Trust but fundraising has been at its heart since 1989, when the Bowman family ran The Craw’s Nest Hotel in Anstruther.
At that time, the couple held raffles at a Saturday night dinner dance and a gallon-bottle on the bar for loose change. Scotch tablet sold at the reception would raise hundreds of pounds.
More than £600,000 has been raised in three decades and more than 180 people have benefited from renewed mobility.
Eleanor said: “It’s great seeing and hearing stories about the difference a chair has made to someone’s life.
“Recently we presented a chair to an MS sufferer; not only did it help with day-to-day life but he was able to go back to work part-time. His wife told us he felt like a new man.
“A young boy who has dwarfism, amongst many other medical conditions, needed a very specific chair made with a rise and fall facility.
“This was to allow him to function like the rest of his friends in school, it allowed him to be raised up to eye level with his classmates and low down, for doing activities on the floor.
“This was made possible with the help of both the Mary Leishman Foundation and Keepers of the Green as the chair cost £16,000.
“His mum sent us a picture of him at the local fair, shooting a water pistol with the rest of his family.
“This may be a small thing to some but this was a major step forward, not only for the boy, but also for the whole family, they could do so much more together as a family.”
The cause’s main fundraiser for the year was a charity dinner and auction items over the years have ranged from a meet and greet with Mumford and Sons, a signed drum skin from Coldplay and a signed guitar from Snow Patrol and Sir Paul McCartney’s mandolin.
One of the charity’s biggest supporters is Sir Alex Ferguson, who has helped secure speakers for the dinner and donated numerous Manchester United items for auction, as well as allowing himself to be interrogated for the charity’s 25th Anniversary Gala Dinner.
Eleanor said: “I think one of my favourite moments was when we would hold our yearly presentation night in the ballroom of the Craw’s Nest Hotel.
“Everyone was welcome; volunteers, people who had raised money, sponsors and friends of the charity.
“Seeing the kids and adults whizz about the dance floor to the sounds of the disco on their new chairs, giving them a new found freedom was truly an amazing sight.
“The smiles on their faces was a picture, reminding everyone in that room just how worthwhile our fundraising was, and still is.”
Eleanor has enlisted the help of her DJ daughter Edith for an event at Dunfermline’s Alhambra Theatre on October 8.
Cycling legend Sir Chris Hoy will be in conversation with Edith on stage and ‘Gary: Tank Commander’, Greg McHugh will be a special guest.
A Gala Ball with a live band will also be held in the Crail Cow Shed on November 23, while the annual party night will take place in Anstruther Town Hall on December 13.