Written by Natalie Hopkins, Senior Account Manager
Three words I love to see every year at Chapter. Three words that epitomize 353 – a charity we at Chapter have supported for many years. And this year more than ever, a chance to work with 353 on their annual ball was something we were proud to be a part of.
353 was set up by the Lewis family in memory of their son Conrad Lewis who on 9th February 2011 became the 353rd soldier to give his life in Afghanistan. They set up the charity to remember, celebrate and support and we have had the honour of going on that journey with them. A journey that has seen over a million pounds raised, countless bottles of port polished off and hundreds of hearts lifted by the spirit of 353. From motorbike meets to golfing tournaments 353 always know how to throw a fundraiser that will leave its attendees feeling good while doing good. This past year has created testing times for all but especially charities like 353 who rely on support and togetherness to raise funds for the great work they do.
2021 marked the tenth anniversary of Conrad’s passing, a sombre but important milestone that could not be missed. We knew the words fundraiser and facemasks didn’t go hand-in-hand, but we were more than ready to take on the challenge of bringing a virtual ball to life when the brief came in. It was a chance to give back, get people together and ultimately help raise money for the military community and their families. Throw in the fact we could dress up and raise a few glasses with new faces during Lockdown 3.0 and it was a night we all couldn’t wait to attend.
Working on 353 every year always means so much but 2020 was a tough year for everyone – one spent apart from loved ones but also one where offices closed, and work-from-home became the norm. I think we can all agree 2020 has taught us that you don’t realise what you had until it’s gone: That bleary-eyed breakfast gather on a Monday or that quick walk to grab a sandwich you used to curse on a busy day. Fast-forward and the weekly shops just can’t come round quick enough; a chance to wave, nod and give knowing looks to strangers because this year we truly all are in this strange world together, but apart.
For this reason, the 2021 353 ball brief was a lifeline not only for those it would inevitably help but for the spirit of Chapter and ‘It matters’. It was a unique opportunity for us as an agency to come together on an open brief and feel part of something that makes a difference at a time when we were truly missing our tea breaks together. A chance to rally the team and really contribute to a cause that mattered as an agency, together.
That togetherness was central to the concept for this year’s ball, we wanted to recognise Conrad and the military community’s resilience as a beacon of hope for a year where many were fighting their own battles. ‘Together We Stand’ was a call to arms for people to brush off the last blow of ‘breaking news’ and unite for an evening which promised to be good for the soul.
The virtual ball was a roaring success, with over 140 households logging in to watch a night full of memories, music and bidding mayhem. It was a fantastic feeling to be greeted by a sea of people on screen – ready to raise money and commemorate those who made the ultimate sacrifice. It was an evening that spread positivity at every opportunity from the uplifting live sets by Andrew James through to seeing the astounding feats extraordinary people go to; like the Atlantic Mavericks who rowed 3,000 miles to raise money for others. Every screen was lit up with beaming faces whether it be enjoying a three-course meal, cheeky takeout or just one too many drinks – every square represented a happy household standing together and Chapter was a part of making that happen.
The evening raised a staggering £22,000. We all dined, remembered and applauded together. We started in our best heels and finished in our fluffiest slippers. As an agency it was not only an evening to remember but a brief that brought us together and reminded us why we do what we do; because 353 is not just a number, It matters.