Bringing an island community together and being better than the telly!

Just over two weeks ago my husband and I thought we would put together a hamper of candles and do a JustGiving page to raise money for the island Hospice – Bethesda. Each £2 donated would be a ticket and then we would randomly select a name to win it on the 29th of April. The target was set at £700 and the page published.

Bethesda means something to everyone on this island. If a family haven’t used it first hand they know someone who has. It means a lot to us as a family as Donald’s father passed away just over 2 years ago after a few weeks in Bethesda. This virtual raffle has meant more than a donation it showed Scotland and the world that the community spirit is alive! Even if we are all staying at home we came together online.


Sandwick Bay candle hamper

The candle hamper that started it all – initial target set for £700 then £2,000

virtual raffle

Stay at home and support Bethesda – Virtual Raffle

Karen and Sarah from Salka Jewellery then got in touch asking if they could add £100 of sea glass jewellery to the hamper. The idea was then created that maybe other local businesses would like to donate a prize and we could make it a virtual raffle with a few more prizes than just the hamper. In the end we had 140 prizes. These came from businesses both on the island and the mainland. They came to me asking to donate and the prizes were amazing! We had self catering stays ranging from overnight to a week, hair cuts, beauty vouchers, carpet and home decorating vouchers, art work, harris tweed, seafood, food and restaurant vouchers, driving lessons – there were just so many. And all from small businesses that are doing it tough at the moment in the current covid-19 climate of financial uncertainty.

The full list of businesses who donated are on the JustGiving page so go and show them some support.



But I think the prize donation that got people talking and donating was the offer of FREE food for life for one person from the Crown Hotel in Stornoway. When the total had got over £10 ,000 they said that if it got to £20,000 then their prize was in the bag. Challenge set! On the Saturday afternoon we rode up to where Holly and Tom from the Crown live just as the total reached £20,000. We celebrated from each side of the fence and just couldn’t believe we had done it! I then asked George (their son) what he thought the total would get to – he said £50,000 which we all laughed at as we thought that would never happen.

Spreading the news to raise as much as possible

Rhoda from had got in touch and said she would share the post on the Isle20 social media pages. Rhoda has done an amazing job getting a website together to support the Scottish Islands and showcase the talents of makers living there. She also offered to put together the graphic of all the business logos which just looks fantastic!

I have also been following Victoria from The Aye life for a while. Her Instagram stories make me laugh and smile so much. We had a phone call and she offered to write a blog post to help share the story. As you read about the ‘raffle of dreams’ you can see we smashed our total – read it here

We love Stornoway then picked up on it and saw that something pretty amazing was happening. As Fred said ‘I have never seen something like this before’. At one stage the donations were coming in at £100 a minute! You can see the increasing totals over the last few days and read more here 

Raffle prizes

Some of the businesses who donated prizes

The last push and day of the draw

On the last day it was looking like it was going to reach £50,000 in the morning. Busy at the computer in the workshop entering all the names and emails into the spreadsheet there was suddenly all this noise outside the door. A group of ladies from Bethesda, including Carol and Natalie had come around to celebrate! We all just couldn’t believe the amount that had been reached. It really does mean so much to Bethesda. One more thing we needed before we could do the live draw was the gambling licence. Who knew that if you raised more than £20,000 in a raffle you needed a licence. I had applied for this first thing on Monday morning. 2pm Wednesday the council emailed me the licence. Even the policeman Ross who I had spoken to on Monday rang to check it had come through!

Some of the comments we were receiving online were keeping me going:

  • Amazing prizes what a community we live in proud does not even cover it
  • The prizes that individuals and companies have offered are just shows that even in our strange and uncertain lives just now there’s still kindness and generosity in abundance
  • Wow, this is fantastic… much kindness in uncertain times is amazing xx
  • Incredible I am so pleased I could cry
  • The kindness in this island is phenomenal and the way all the business’s rally around in times like this is testimony to this … I applaud you all

At one point I had my head in my hands at the desk with about 600 emails to be processed thinking I just can’t do this! But by 6.30pm the spreadsheet was complete and sent off to excel wiz Findlay to check over and add the formula so names were on each ticket depending on donation amount. In the end we had over 32,000 lines. Donations ranged from £2 to an anonymous £1000 donation. I then headed home to get something to eat and set up the computers ready for the live draw at 8pm

Facebook live draw

live raffle draw

Getting ready for the live raffle draw

At 8pm we were all poised and ready. We had no idea what to expect or how this was going to work. Master 5yr old had complete control of the TV remote downstairs and our fingers were crossed he didn’t interrupt the draw too much. The fabulous Aimee had written out every prize and details then folded it so we just had to draw them out randomly. A random number generator app was on the Ipad, the spreadsheet was open and we were ready! We had over 1400 people watching live! Family in Australia and New Zealand had set alarms to get up early. The comments were flying in and afterwards people were saying they had watched the entire draw and said it was better than Netflix and telly. Also how amazing my family were at helping, how good the girls were and just how much they loved seeing the comments coming in from everyone. It was just fantastic and I feel incredibly lucky to be a part of this community. We got through the draw with no hickups, had written everyone’s names down. I think the most common winning surname was Morrison, then Macleod, Maciver, Mackenzie…

The next day

Started with an interview with BBC Alba and the Stornoway Gazette. Then it was on to emailing all the prize winners. Now this was a fun, and long, job. We had a nurse auxiliary at the Western Isles Hospital win one of the self catering stays, a gentleman in Germany winning the 1kg of tablet, and one lady who won a holiday stay in Ness who commented that her mother is from Ness and her sister who lived in Ness was cared for in Bethesda for her final few days before passing. A lot of very happy people! Most said they had watched the live draw and were thrilled to hear their name called out. Each time we emailed someone we just couldn’t believe the generosity of the prizes. This would never have been as successful if we hadn’t had all these businesses involved and helping share the page to raise the money for Bethesda Hospice.

Family at Bethesda

The cheque for Bethesda

In the end the final total was just shy of £70,000 once all the cash donations had been counted and passed on to Bethesda.

Just incredible!!!

Would love to hear how it made you feel so leave your comments below.