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Tartan Army bring a little sunshine to the lives of children abroad

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TASALuxembourg

“It’s amazing that a group of soccer fans from the other side of the world actually thought about her wee charity”
how the Tartan Army brings a bit of sunshine to kids in need around the world

The Tartan Army Sunshine Appeal is a registered charity which donates money to children’s charities in every country which the Scottish national team visits.

Chairman of this organisation of saintly football fans is John Daly, 56 from Renfrewshire. A fan of Third Division strugglers Stirling Albion you would thing that he donates enough to a struggling charitable cause, however he is one of many devoted members of the Tartan Army who donate their spare time to help bring a wee bit of sunshine and relief to children in need in each of the countries which the Scottish national team compete in.

Daly first became aware of the organisation in its infancy, he said: “I became aware of them (Tartan Army Sunshine Appeal) in the early 2000’s, when the sunshine appeal started officially, so maybe 2004, 2005 I had being aware of their activities.

“I can’t remember if I was actually asked or officially invited but I visited a hospital in Paris with a couple of the people who were running the gig then.

“It was a hospital for children with cancer in Paris. I was so emotionally affected by the visit that I thought this is something I want to help because seeing the kiddies and the traumas they have got in their lives. It’s just seeing the absolute joy in their faces when we turned up. This rag-tag Tartan Army giving them wee toys and badges.

“The £1000 we donated, they were using that to provide for facilities for parents of kids to stay overnight with them. To see the effect that such an input had on the community there, I thought that’s something I want to be a part off. So I started to tag along and ask what I could do to help with this that and the next thing. It’s just grown from there.”

The charity raises all of its funds through the good-will and support of volunteers.

Daly continued: “I drifted in; by making myself available for whatever they wanted me to do, selling tickets, running raffles whatever.

“After a period of time I became more involved and then discussions took place within the steering group. We had a steering group at the time which was a loose association of like-minded people. Discussions took place formalising the whole thing because the money being generated was becoming not a fortune but not an insignificant sum.

“We decided to formalise it and basically we became a registered charity. Which up to that point the Sunshine appeal hadn’t being. I took the role of getting us registered with the Office of the Scottish Charities Regulator (OSCR).

“Because we were registered we had to have a structure, we had to meet all the criteria, we needed a chairman and I was elected chairman.”

The process of becoming a registered charity meant some of the original members began to leave the organisation, however Daly believes it was the best move for the organisation.

He said: “There were some people who for whom the formality of being registered I think perhaps took a wee bit of a shine of it for them. They had grown with the organisation and one of them actually said to me I prefer to be an actual mirror image of the Tartan Army which in itself is a loose association of people just having a good time.

“I can understand that and I can still understand that they didn’t want to be involved in the formality of a structure, AGM’s and accounts although all the money previously was accounted for. We did lose two or three but there was no acrimony in it. New people come in and old people move out. It keeps it bubbling, keeps it fresh.”

Although the charity only raises money for children’s charities outside Scotland, Daly says the organisations has never really felt pressure to donate to children’s charities in Scotland.

He continued: “It has always being the central aim to donate money abroad. It’s enshrined in our constitution, that’s the reason that we exist and the reason we have achieved charitable status through the Office of the Scottish Charity Regulator, that’s what we are here to do, to bring a little sunshine into the lives of children in countries Scotland plays in.”

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Many people will ask why would someone would donate so much of their time for a charity to which they receive no financial incentive or reward, however he has several drives behind his involvement in the charity, Daly points out: “My drive is many-fold; one is to see us doing good, but two in my position as chairman is to see the organisation continue into the future. I have a responsibility for that.

“It’s also got its own rewards, personal rewards although that’s an outcome not a drive. But you do walk away with the emotion of some of the visits. really emotional once you get over the emotion of that you know you don’t feel bad about yourself and I really like to feed it back to the people who give us the money because without them we don’t exist.

“It’s their money which we are using to on their behalf and to raise the profile of Scottish fans of course. We don’t own this money, we are just the custodians of this money, it’s not ours it’s the Scottish football fans money and we are using it on their behalf.”

One of the unusual aspects of the charity is the presentation – when up to a dozen Tartan Army members will turn up in full tartan regalia and bagpipes to cheer up the children and donate the money personally to the charity.

Daly said, “I don’t always participate in the visit or the ceremony in the end. We got a group, a team who do that. Sometimes there is no-one from the sunshine appeal.

“I remember once in Stockholm, we were playing Sweden in a friendly, the Dunfermline Tartan Army had a hike up Ben Lomond to raise funds for us, so we said to the Dunfermline Tartan Army why don’t half a dozen of you go and do the presentation, see what it’s like, get the feedback, the feeling, your contributing the funds, you go and do it.”

“On the occasions that I am present, it can be very emotional. Making a wee speech and thanking everybody and you have all these kiddies about you. The lumps in the throat don’t get me wrong.

“It’s very, very emotional but out of that emotion you do get a lot of satisfaction out of it, you have done a wee bit to cure the world’s ills. We are just trying to do our wee bit. I know it’s a bit of a cliché on our website but we’re just trying to bring a bit of sunshine into the lives of kids who haven’t got it easy.”

But how do they decide which charity deserves to be supported by this thoughtful organisation?

Daly said: “There are a number of criteria we stick to when selecting an organisation, it’s got to be largely if not exclusively helping kids, its non-religious, non-political and non-government funded and preferably sport related.”

However he does admit that from time to time they do need help when looking for a charity to donate top.

He added: “For the lead we got for the charity in Japan, it came from the Tokyo Celtic supporters club because we were getting nowhere. I was in charge for trying to find something for Japan and I was really struggling.

“It was a link on a Japanese website that out of nowhere I saw this Tokyo Celtic supporters club and I thought what’s that. I clicked on that link and it took me to their website and I found one of their nominated charities was this kiddie’s abuse charity and I contacted the Celtic supporters club over there via the internet.”

Not all charities at first are welcoming of this outside cash source.

Daly admitted: “Sometimes when you contact these charities via email they just thing spam. Sometimes it takes them a wee bit of convincing. This particular lady who ran this charity in Tokyo took a lot of convincing. It wasn’t until the Celtic supporter’s guy contacted her to say this is real, they really do want to give you money that she then contacted me. We will use any communication channel that we can to narrow down the charities to the one.

“They are quite taken aback. But they are always gobsmacked that lady in Tokyo said to me she brought her daughter along, the lady spoke perfect English as she studied in America. She said she finds it amazing that a group of soccer fans from the other side of the world actually thought about her wee charity and giving them money. Her head exploded. We always manage to convince them that we really want to give them money.”

If you are interested in getting involved with Tartan Army Sunshine Appeal you can find more details on their website at: http://www.tasunshineappeal.co.uk/ or you can follow them on Twitter @TASA1999.

The Tartan Army Sunshine Appeal are also organising a Kilted Golf Day for Monday 20th May 2013 – you can find more details on this event at http://kiltedgolfday.moonfruit.com/

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