Since I was a 9-year-old lad, rugby has always been my passion. Professionally, playing for Queen and country, leading the team to victory and a stadium creaking with lively Scottish supporters, these were things that were important to me. It wasn’t until years later that I unwittingly found my passion ignited for another cause.
Fifteen years ago I was approached by sisters, Penny Dickson & Claire Maitland. The Scottish family had recently lost their 14-year-old son and nephew in a tragic accident. Although Sandy was a strong swimmer and keen sportsman, he had drowned at a remote lake while visiting his grandmother. The family realised that when accidents happen the emergency services may not always be close at hand to help. Their loss was the catalyst for the launch of the Sandpiper Trust, a charity dedicated to saving lives in rural Scotland. They had a vision, which, from that day forward also became mine as Patron. Together we wanted to ensure that other families did not have to needlessly go through what they had.
The Sandpiper Trust saves lives by equipping specially trained medical professionals with life-saving medical equipment in what are known as ‘Sandpiper Bags’. When a high-priority 999 call comes through, ambulance coordinators locate voluntary Sandpiper BASICS emergency responders and direct them to the place of need fast, before an ambulance arrives. When every second counts, these extra minutes can be life changing.
It was while Claire and her husband Robin were travelling back from their beloved Murrayfield, following a momentous occasion for the charity which saw Princess Anne present a Sandpiper bag at the match, that it struck her that funding 1000 life-saving bags would not be impossible. Very ambitious yes, but with sheer willpower, absolutely doable. In 2016 that goal was achieved with 1000 Sandpiper bags now in the safe hands of volunteer GP’s, paramedics and nurses throughout Scotland, from the most rural practice in the Isles to the Borders and everywhere in-between. For any charity, let alone a small, family run one, this is a massive accomplishment with a price tag of over £1m. A value which is unsurprisingly priceless to those whose lives have been saved and their families. And save lives we have. To continue to do so we need support.
From the outset, the rugby community has been behind the Trust, with match day collections, local team fundraisers and charity tournaments all boosting funds. As a contact sport, we’re no stranger to accidents on the pitch and we often spend long spells travelling along rural roads on match days. It’s comforting to know that if any one of us was in need, and the emergency services couldn’t get to us quickly enough, that the Sandpiper Trust could. In fact, last year, our responders were called out to over nine hundred 999 accidents and emergencies.
I know that there are lots of great fundraising activities happening across the country through our rugby clubs. All I ask is that when you next need a worthwhile cause to support you consider the Sandpiper Trust. Better still, contact them now to hear about the life-saving work they are doing in your own community.
Playing my part as Patron of the Trust and being an extension of the Sandpiper family is an honour. The greatest satisfaction to me is when I hear reports back from doctors of the lives that have been saved as a direct result of the Sandpiper equipment that they have been given. We can always save more though and so I will continue to fly the flag of this vital charity, spreading the word to people like you because together we can achieve much more.
Gavin Hastings OBE
Patron of the Sandpiper Trust