‘I was hoping for three golds on the first day,’ deadpans Sean Gaffney, when asked if he was happy with the two golds, one silver and a bronze that he won in the 2016 Invictus Games, the international Paralympic-style event
During a practice run for a tournament while he was serving in the Royal Navy’s Fleet Air Arm in 1999, there was ‘a bit of an accident’ when a 1,500lb field gun ended up on top of Sean’s foot, crushing it. Since suffering that life-changing injury, in which he lost the lower part of his left leg, Sean Gaffney has pushed his body to the limits of physical endurance.
He spent three months in hospital undergoing about 26 surgeries before contracting life-threatening septicaemia and having his leg amputated below the knee. Back at the gym within a month of being released from hospital, Sean started entering triathlons and began raising money for charities such as Help for Heroes, which led to him being asked to take part in the Invictus Games.
It’s his charity work that made Sean interested in Freemasonry. ‘Since 2006 I’ve done one or two physically challenging charity events a year,’ he says. ‘So when that side of Freemasonry was explained to me, I thought that was the best thing about it.’
Sean was initiated into the Royal Naval Lodge, No. 2761, in Yeovil in 2013, and feels that Freemasonry fits well into his life. ‘I can go off to a lodge meeting or a charity meal, or say that I’ll help out a fellow brother at the weekend lifting and shifting,’ he says. ‘It’s opened up a network of friends. Being a mason is not just about being a good man today, but having the desire to be a better man tomorrow.’
What does the Tercentenary mean to you?
‘How proud I am to be part of an organisation that for 300 years has sought to bring out the best in people. To be a member of a fraternity that does so much good in the world and asks for so little in return.’
Freemasons of Bedfordshire recently presented 49 different charities with donations totalling £72,061
Lodge members from across Bedfordshire raised the funds over the past 12 months and gave it to charities and good causes such as Diabetes UK, Cancer Research UK, Bedfordshire Games, Keech Hospice Care, Help for Heroes, Autism Bedfordshire, Alzheimer's UK, Luton and Dunstable Hospital, Bedford Hospital, Midshires Search and Rescue Organisation, Bedfordshire Scouts and Sue Ryder.
The event was held on 26th February at the Luton Masonic Centre with around 160 people in attendance. Each of the charities were presented with their cheques by the representatives from the supporting lodges or the Provincial Grand Master of the Province of Bedfordshire, Michael Sawyer, who said: 'All the money that we raise comes from Freemasons themselves and it gives them great pleasure to be able to contribute to these charities and the wonderful work that they do.'
Each charity representative present at the event responded with expressions of their gratitude and how important the Bedfordshire Freemasons donations are in helping them reach their targets for support.
The caring community
David Maddern and Geoff Tuck discuss the importance of the Grand Charity in bringing Freemasonry to a wider audience
Charitable giving has been a masonic tradition from the earliest days of Freemasonry, three hundred years ago. Since 1981, The Freemasons’ Grand Charity has supported members and their dependants in financial distress, as well as the wider community, with grants totalling more than £120 million.
This tremendous achievement has only been possible because of the generosity of Freemasons and their families. Wherever possible, the Grand Charity involves members in its activities, with Metropolitan and Provincial Grand Almoners and Grand Charity Stewards playing a crucial role in service delivery and fundraising.
David Maddern (Provincial Grand Charity Steward of Somerset) and Geoff Tuck (Assistant Provincial Grand Master of Hampshire and Isle of Wight) have been central figures in masonic charity in their Provinces for many years. They both understand the importance of involving the masonic community in Grand Charity activities and the positive effects this can have.
With the Province of Somerset currently in Festival for the Grand Charity, David has encountered a perception that the Grand Charity does not support local communities, something that he believes could not be further from the truth.
‘By involving Freemasons in the donations to non-masonic charities and projects, a true understanding of the Grand Charity is gained,’ he explains. ‘The annual cheque presentations to hospices and air ambulances are a great way to involve members from across the Province, especially as these fantastic services are close to the hearts of many.’
It is a priority for the Grand Charity that it supports the causes that matter to masons. Geoff remarks, ‘Details of the non-masonic grants have a positive ripple effect on members; they are recalled with pride and often lead to further financial and volunteering support for the charities.’
David echoes this point: ‘The charities that have received the largest donations from Somerset lodges are also charities that the Grand Charity has supported – Help for Heroes, Dorset and Somerset Air Ambulance, and St Margaret’s Hospice. I would not be surprised if other Provinces were to report the same thing, as I sense that the Grand Charity’s actions inspire local masons to follow its lead.’
Provincial involvement with the supported charities can also help Freemasonry. ‘Being part of non-masonic grant-giving creates rare public opportunities to overcome prejudices, myths and unfair publicity,’ says Geoff. ‘As a result, I know of at least two gentlemen who have become masons, and innumerable others who now have a totally different and positive view of Freemasonry.’
Geoff sees the work of the Grand Charity in respect of non-masonic grants as an essential element in the future of the Craft and its reputation. ‘It is a clear demonstration that Freemasonry is an influence for good and something of which future members wish to be a part.’
It is important to The Freemasons’ Grand Charity that all masons feel involved with its work. To find out more, visit www.grandcharity.org or contact your Provincial Grand Charity Steward and discover how you can get involved
Ten years on the road for Widows Sons
The Widows Sons Masonic Bikers Association celebrates its 10th year in the UK this year. Since its formation, the association has grown rapidly and now boasts hundreds of members in chapters throughout the UK. Members from the UK and Europe recently came together in July for their annual rally in the Ribble Valley in Lancashire.
In the past, the bikers have distributed Easter eggs and Christmas gifts to children’s homes and adult centres, and backed Help for Heroes and SSAFA. They also visited Ypres in Belgium in remembrance of brethren who fell in World War I, in an event which culminated with laying a wreath at the Menin Gate.
Caring for the hidden wounded
Tom Stimpson MBE spoke at The Freemasons’ Grand Charity’s General Meeting about the help he has received in overcoming the psychological effects of warfare
Highlights at the Grand Charity’s General Meeting held last November included the approval of £745,000 of grants to non-masonic charities, bringing the total of such grants approved in 2013 to more than £2.4 million. Another highlight was the ongoing support for service personnel.
Among the guests was RAF veteran and Freemason, Tom Stimpson MBE. Tom spoke on behalf of Help for Heroes, a charity that provides wounded veterans with welfare support, life-skills courses, sports facilities, education and training – and gave him ‘lifesaving’ support after he was medically discharged from the RAF. Since 2008, the Grand Charity has donated £72,570 to Help for Heroes, with many lodges raising additional funds.
Tom’s traumatic experiences of war while in service in Iraq and Afghanistan left him both physically and mentally wounded. When describing his return home from Iraq, his wife said that he ‘left as a husband and father, and came back a stranger’. With the support of the RAF and Ministry of Defence, friends and family, Help for Heroes and his masonic brethren, Tom has come back from what he says was the ‘lowest point’ in his life.
Tom emphasised that his story is not an isolated one – thousands of active service men and women are affected by post-traumatic stress disorder. Sadly, many veterans cannot face the despair their traumas have caused; according to the BBC’s Panorama, fifty service personnel committed suicide in 2012 in the UK alone. Tom’s closing message to the meeting was: ‘We may be leaving Afghanistan in 2014, but the effects of war will remain with so many for many more years to come. Please continue to support them and Help for Heroes.’
Telling the world
While the role of Freemasons in raising funds for worthy causes is crucial, the Grand Charity believes it is also important to publicise its work to a wider audience
The Freemasons’ Grand Charity works hard to raise awareness of the generosity of masons. In recent years it has seen an increase in the number of publicity mentions it has received and was included more than six hundred times in the regional press (newspapers, online media and radio) and charity websites/publications last year.
This level of coverage is made possible by the Grand Charity working closely with Provincial and Metropolitan Information and Communication Officers, who are responsible for gaining a great deal of recognition for the charity’s work in regional press.
For example, news of the Grand Charity’s support for air ambulances was publicised more than one hundred and forty times, featuring on ITV news online and several radio stations. The hospices programme also received frequent recognition, with more than one hundred mentions in regional press.
The Grand Charity also works closely with the charities it funds, many of which show their thanks through public recognition. The £50,000 donation to Help for Heroes in 2012, to fund therapeutic gardens at a recovery centre for wounded service personnel, was highlighted on BBC radio. In addition, a plaque acknowledging the support of Freemasons was placed in the gardens upon completion.
Many other charities include messages of thanks to Freemasons for their support in their own charity publications, websites, press releases and social media. News of the Grand Charity’s grant to Cancer Research UK last year received more than one thousand ‘likes’ on its Facebook page.
In the news
During 2013, the Grand Charity has spent time promoting its Masonic Relief Grants programme to a wider audience. The charity has been working with Mark Smith, Provincial Grand Almoner of Gloucestershire, to raise awareness of the valuable community service Almoners carry out by providing help, guidance and pastoral support in often very difficult and challenging circumstances.
Mark was interviewed live on BBC Radio Gloucestershire about the work of the Almoner and the support given by the central masonic charities. Mark spoke eloquently about his role and how Freemasonry provides a wide range of support for people in need and that ultimately this is of great benefit to society as a whole.
The Grand Charity would like to thank Mark for his help in publicising the work of the central masonic charities and, most importantly, for highlighting the work carried out by Almoners across England and Wales. The role of lodge Almoner is voluntary and one that requires a great deal of dedication – without their commitment it would be impossible for the Grand Charity to assist the thousands of people it helps each year.
Other highlights for the Grand Charity have included recognition of its work by The Guardian online in an interview with Jackie Bailey, head of outreach at the Spinal Injuries Association, and also during an interview on BBC Radio Manchester with Ben Fewtrell, a family support worker at the Rainbow Trust Children’s Charity. Both Jackie and Ben’s roles are largely funded by The Freemasons’ Grand Charity, which was acknowledged.
A year to remember
With the help of Freemasons around the country, the Grand Charity provides an invaluable service to those in need
For many people 2012 will be a year to remember, from visions of bunting and the Queen’s Jubilee to the sporting excellence of the Olympic and Paralympic Games. Yet many people struggled due to financial problems, illness or other difficult circumstances. The Grand Charity exists to help these people in need – Freemasons, their families or the wider community – and 2012 was no exception.
The Freemasons’ Grand Charity received over two thousand applications for financial assistance and approved support of more than £5 million. The charity noted a continued increase in applications from younger members facing redundancy and business difficulties due to the economic crisis.
Support for the wider community
The charity provided £2.5 million in funding for non-masonic charitable causes. This included continued support for research into age-related deafness; support for ex-Armed Service personnel with grants for Help for Heroes and Combat Stress; and support for projects that tackle youth unemployment, which grew to 20.5 per cent in 2012.
2012 saw the Grand Charity celebrate more than £1 million in grants to the Air Ambulances and equivalent services since 2007. These grants provide funding for what is considered to be the country’s busiest voluntary emergency service. In 2012, each Provincial and Metropolitan Grand Lodge presented a share of £192,000 to its local service.
In 2012, £600,000 was distributed amongst two hundred and thirty-nine hospice services, bringing the total given since 1984 to £9.9 million.
We hope it is clear how valuable the work of The Freemasons’ Grand Charity is. The impact achieved through its funding might be difficult to measure, but it is immense. It is only thanks to the support of the Freemasons and their families that the charity is able to make such a contribution to people’s lives.
The grants listed above are only a small selection of charitable causes that have been assisted by Freemasons through the Grand Charity in 2012; a full list is available to view at www.grandcharity.org
Enclosed within this issue of Freemasonry Today you will find the Grand Charity’s Annual Review 2012 – we hope you enjoy reading it.
Backing for heroes
Freemasonry in the community has always been at the heart of Welsh masons and is underlined by the Provincial Grand Master of South Wales’s Gala Dinner, attended by members of 62 lodges in Cardiff. At the event, Provincial Grand Master Captain Sir Norman Lloyd-Edwards presented a cheque for £12,500 to Help for Heroes, a further sum of around £5,000 being added later.
A tandem parachute jump from 13,000 feet with the Red Devils Parachute Team, has been made by Teresa Bridgland-Taylor in memory of the late Bob McDuff of Hereford, and also to raise money in aid of the charity Help for Heroes.
Teresa refers to Bob McDuff as “my hero”, who on his 20th birthday with heavy radio kit strapped to his back, took part in the Normandy Landings D-Day 6th June 1944, and so it is appropriate that the sponsor money from the parachute jump was to be donated for today’s Help for Heroes.
Meeting with Andy Trickett, County Volunteer Coordinator, at her home in Hereford, Teresa presented a cheque for £1,167 for this charity in ‘Support For Our Wounded’.
Teresa made public her intension to make this parachute jump at her Ladies Festival associated with Dean Waterfield Lodge No.8089, where her husband Tim was Worshipful Master. It has been a tradition within the Lodge that on these occasions the Worshipful Master’s wife receives a monetary gift in appreciation of her support. In this instance Teresa used this gift towards the cost of the parachute jump.
Husband Tim emphasised that this “should not be a precedent for future Worshipful Masters’ wives! Teresa completed her parachute jump on 6th June at Langer Aerodrome Nottingham.
Bob McDuff was a Past Master of Dean Waterfield Lodge.
Guernsey aids the Services
Two Service charities, Soldiers, Sailors, Airmen and Families Association and Help For Heroes, have received cheques from the brethren of Guernsey and Alderney in a ceremony at the Masonic Centre, St Martin’s. Provincial Grand Master Jurat David Hodgetts presented the cheques to Ben Remfrey of Help For Heroes and John Silvester of SSAFA totalling more than £8,000.