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I founded and co-founded a couple of companies: Redington and mallowstreet; I write about issues of the day that touch me and make me think. Mostly about how to make things better.

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Fifty Shards of Grey

Back in the day, I went to law school where I became friends with fellow student Sally-Anne Hunter. We both ended up serving on Lincoln’s Inn’sStudent Union (class of ’87), and I still remember the thing about Sally-Anne – she always got the job done. She was one of those very few who have a clear, passionate vision andthe ability to execute. That’s a rare combination.

Twenty five years later, Sally-Anne hasn’t changed. She left the law and, these days, she is engaged in the challenging but rewarding business of raising major funding for non-profit organisations. In fact, by the end of 2014, she intends to raise a million pounds (!) for the Commando Spirit Appeal she founded in October 2010 to support Royal Marines in need, and their families.

Sally-Anne’s approach is simple yet powerful: take a group of ordinary people to the very edge of their physical and psychological limits and then a bit further. In order to participate, they each have to raise serious amounts of sponsorship. After all, Sally-Anne is about fundamentally changing the quality of people’s lives and, for the most part, that takes money.

So, last year, she set up Escape the Dunker in which you got to take part in a simulated helicopter crash into a cold sea. In total darkness. Your mission was to escape from your seat in the back of the chopper after it had spun around a good few times fully submerged, and, desperate for air, you no had no idea which way was up. If your mission failed, you would be hauled out spluttering by a Royal Marine Commando. Hopefully.

This year, Sally-Anne raised the bar and persuaded a few good men and women to Take the Leap with her and abseil from iconic locations in London including St Pancras Station, Twickenham Stadium and The Shard. Let’s just say that if you didn’t much enjoy the Dunker Challenge, The Descent of the Shard took the fear factor to a whole new level.

The Shard is the tallest building in Europe; brand new, (it only opened last month), it soars to an incredible 1,016 feet above London, utterly dominating the landscape. It is a gigantic pyramid sculpture of splintered glass, an astonishing architectural masterpiece by Renzo Piano. Now picture yourself standing at the very pinnacle of the glinting Shard just before you lean out into the abyss and abseil backwards down one of the near-vertical sides. If the slender rope gives way, you’ll have a full eight seconds to take in the view before you arrive upside down on terra firma. OK? All you have to do is conquer the rising fear and lean back.

The Descent of the Shard was made possible by an extraordinary team of Royal Marine Commandos who fitted and tested the harnesses, ropes, pulleys, karabiners, belays and platforms required to carry out this extreme abseil; the longest ever by anyone outside the military. The training for The Descent of the Shard was provided by another great charity, Outward Bound.

Last Monday morning, HRH Prince Andrew was first down the Shard. Later in the day, Sally-Anne along with Redington Co-CEO, Robert Gardner, made The Descent of the Shard together with a select band of brave (but slightly crazy) folk, all intent on showcasing Commando Spirit’s core values – courage, determination, unselfishness and cheerfulness in the face of adversity.

This (below) is Rob Gardner in awe-inspiring action under a late-summer powder-blue sky, high above one of the world’s great cities. Once you have watched it, you’re going to want to know where to make your donation to the Commando Spirit Appeal so,

here’s the link to Rob’s page

here’s the link to Sally-Anne’s page

and here’s the link explaining how you can participate in, donate to, or sponsor the Commando Spirit Appeal.

Perhaps those Commando Spirit values will help you to make your own Descent of the Shard  – that personal, daunting, life changing step into the unknown that you know you need to take…

This is how it’s done:


BTW, if you did The Descent of the Shard on Monday, send me your fundraising page link and I’ll put it on here.

4 comment on “Fifty Shards of Grey

  • Codescribbler
    September 11, 2012 | 9:45 am

    Love the video montage! Well done to Rob on a stunning achievement.

  • Alieu Fofanah
    September 11, 2012 | 5:58 pm

    Amazing video! Great to have volunteered to have escort a fantastic bunch of people

  • Sally-Anne Hunter
    September 17, 2012 | 8:04 pm

    Thank you Dawid for your kind comments and for believing in me and helping to turn my ideas into reality.

  • Dawid1
    September 17, 2012 | 11:09 pm

    Sally-Anne, you have incredible vision and drive, yet you are very humble with it and always have been. It is such a pleasure to know you.

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