Katie Curtis is Lily's auntie, and has been involved with the charity since it started. Here she talks about why she's still as motivated as ever after 13 years of volunteering – and what it's like to take a punch on the nose for a good cause.
Katie, you're a busy mum to three children (aged 5, 3 and 1) and you run your own business. How do you find time to volunteer and fundraise for Lily?
I get so much out of my involvement with Lily, so I see it as time spent doing something for me. I spend a lot of my time in the office working, or looking after the kids, so I really value the few hours I spend each week training for a sports event, or a day helping out with the Lily team. It breaks up my routine, it's always a lot of fun, and really different to anything else I do. Recently I signed up for Lily Fight Night, so now I'm learning to box. Even though it's for a good cause it feels like something I'm doing for myself, which is great.
Any idea how many Lily events you've attended?
I've lost count! I've done a marathon, two half marathons and a 10k, even though I actually hate running! I've been to the Lily Ball almost every year, and was actually quite upset when I had to miss one last year because I'd just had a baby. I once even broke my ankle at a Lily Ball, falling off my heels. It was at the start of the night, too, which is quite an achievement! I've helped out at Lily Family Weekend, and a lot of other Lily events, too. This year will be my first Lily Fight Night. I've been wanting to do one for ages, but I was always either pregnant or I'd just had a baby. So I'm excited to be trying something new.
How's your preparation for Lily Fight Night going?
It's amazing. I've never boxed before in my life, so I'm totally out of my comfort zone, but it feels really empowering. I feel like I could tackle pretty much anything now. Like, if someone attacked me, I'd be able to defend myself. Even just learning how to hold yourself and throw a punch properly feels amazing. It makes a huge difference, and it's not something you normally learn how to do, especially if you're a woman.
Is the training intense?
It's savage! But you're bonding with other people who have signed up, so it's loads of fun. We train every Thursday at State of Mind Fitness in Hammersmith. It's an hour of circuit training, then an hour sparring. I've done Blaze (HIIT) workouts before, but they're easy compared to this. You're burning about 1000 calories, it's ridiculous. But Barry, our trainer, is brilliant at keeping everyone motivated. He's got nicknames for us all, he keeps it fun, but he's always pushing you harder. You'll be doing a plank, and he'll come and knock you over. It really toughens you up. I'd recommend the training to anyone, it's a game changer.
What's it like getting punched in the face for charity?
Actually not as bad as it sounds! We're wearing 16oz gloves, so they're quite big and cushioned. When you get a thump on the nose it stings, but doesn't really hurt. You're like, wow, OK, I got hit in the face! And then your competitive spirit kicks in, and you think, I'm not having that! It makes you fight harder. I really enjoy the sparring. Perhaps I'm a bit of a tomboy, but my friend Susan, who is a mito mum and my boxing opponent, is much more girly than me, and she loves it too. That's the great thing about this, you don't have to be Tyson Fury to enjoy it.
If I can do this, having had three kids, with no pelvic floor and a penchant for chardonnay, anyone can!"
Do you have a favourite Lily event?
There's something really special about Lily Family Weekend. To me, that's the front line of what the charity does. You can see where the money is going, how Lily is making a difference and enriching the lives of families who are struggling to cope in really dire circumstances. Spending time with other people's children wouldn't usually be my idea of a good time, because I spend so much time with my own, but the kids are just incredible. It's really life affirming to be part of that, and keeps you motivated to do as much as you can.
You've been involved with The Lily Foundation since its launch. What would you say is the secret to its success?
A lot of it is down to Liz [Lily's co-founder and CEO]. The charity has come so far, it's easy to forget that she is not an experienced business person. She's just a mum doing something she really believes in, and that's what makes the charity so special. Her passion inspires others, and she's managed to grow the charity while still retaining a family feel. She employs really passionate people who love the charity, rather than filling job roles with professionals. You see the same faces at every event, it's really special. That's what sets Lily apart, and makes it a such a great charity to work with.
What advice would you give to someone who's thinking of getting involved with Lily?
Go for it! A really good starter for ten would be taking part in a Lily cheering squad at a running event. Everyone is so welcoming, you'll feel part of the Lily family straight away, and it's a fun day out. Or if you want to go bigger, try volunteering at a Lily Family Weekend. Or jump in at the deep end and do the boxing! If I can do it, having had three kids, with no pelvic floor and a penchant for chardonnay, anyone can!