Hot air balloon raffles used to raise funds
Although the festive season is now over, Christmas and the New Year did not interrupt the vital work of the Service by Emergency Rider Volunteers (SERV). Based in Oxfordshire, the volunteers were on call all over the holidays, ready to deliver emergency supplies to hospitals in Oxfordshire, Berkshire, Buckinghamshire and Northamptonshire.
The volunteer bikers came from an array of professional backgrounds, including a hot air balloon operator, a vicar, businessmen and lawyers. Swapping their usual work attire for a set of leathers and a powerful motorbike, the volunteers of SERV are on call between 7pm and 6am to deliver donated breast milk for newborn babies, or blood and plasma for seriously ill patients, to hospitals in the area. They are also available to deliver samples to labs for diagnostic tests.
In contrast to a gentle flight over the countryside, which is the daily work of the hot air balloon pilot, the bikers must reach their destination within 45 minutes to ensure that the fluids or samples are not spoiled in transit.
Over 100 motorbike enthusiasts make up the Oxfordshire team, with a further 18 teams across the country which can take the supplies further afield by a relay system. SERV, which has charity status, spends over £1,500 a month on petrol and is always looking for ways to raise funds. Although delivering emergency supplies by hot air balloon would be impractical, using a hot air balloon flight as a raffle prize is always a popular draw at fundraising events.