Jason O'Dwyer
Posted by

A family affair

Jason O'Dwyer
Posted by
17 Sep 2013

Gwent Branch Vintage Car rally entered its 33rd year this year. Ever since its inception the event has been organised and managed by dedicated branch members Mandy and Bruce Womack (above with daughter Helen) and a 100 strong team of loyal volunteers. This blog isn’t about the amazing rally or the event's humble beginnings when the first rally raised £635.00 or even how, through years of tireless fundraising, the Gwent Branch has raised over £1million to support life-saving research. Rather, this blog is about family, connections, community and love.  Before I started writing I looked up a definition of the word family… here it is:

A group consisting of parents and children living together in a household.

Designed to be suitable for children as well as adults.

noun.   kin - house - household - stock - clan - race - tribe

adjective.   domestic - homely - home - familiar

Over the years I’ve learnt that my definition of family isn’t aligned to the one above. It’s much more than a group consisting of parents and children. Don’t get me wrong, the Gwent Car Rally is very much about family in the traditional sense. From the unwavering support of Bruce and Mandy’s daughters, Jo and Helen, to the generations of families that attend the rally year after year. There is a tangible, palatable sense of family that is always warming and touching to see and hear. Seeing three generations of family together on Saturday afternoon as Mandy greeted her daughter Jo and her grandsons was a wonderful moment of tenderness, in amongst the hubbub of the burgeoning show. 

The car rally isn’t just a fundraising event – it never was. From the very first event Mandy and Bruce organised, they wanted to make a difference.  The difference they want to make is for families – for people – for communities. Like all of our dedicated supporters the Womacks want to beat blood cancer. They want to stop blood cancer affecting the lives of so many people. From the heart wrenching grief of losing a loved one to improving the lives of patients who have to undergo debilitating treatments. Fundraising isn’t just an event. It is bigger than creating awareness for our cause and it’s not just about the next donation. It's about family. 

And family, as I said, means more to me than the definition that I looked up on Google.  Having spent some time with Mandy and Bruce the car rally is something that really proves my point. The family that I was so privileged to be a part of over the weekend was made up a vast array of people – too many for me list or even know. From friends of the Womack family, like Imelda and Roger Wood (who also work tirelessly to organise and manage such a great event) to Paul, the cheeky chap that can source anything, the Gwent Branch family has deep roots and wide connections.

Running a voluntary event like Gwent Car Rally, an event that can have over 1,300 exhibitors, 1000’s of visitors, rides, parades, numerous stalls and so much more isn’t something to be taken lightly. As I helped pack up on Sunday I paused for a moment. In the field next to me was the rain sodden figure of Bruce Womack. He’d had about 5 hours sleep the night before – was up at 5am that day and had put in months of tireless preparation beforehand. There he was, striding through a soaked and muddy field removing pegs and string from the various car paddocks.  It didn’t occur to me question why he and Mandy do what they do – it’s simple.  Love.  Love for their family – in the most traditional sense and in the broadest sense.  Love for their community – a community that at its heart beats the belief that one day, we will beat blood cancer, together.

Photos courtesy of Martin Evans and James Assinder.


Emma W

What an ace read – thank you, Jason, for sharing your reflections and personal insights into such a long-standing, fantastic event.

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