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Alternative balloon race raises money to help animals in need

RSPCA Felledge is one of the centres who took part in the environmentally friendly fundraiser.

A virtual balloon race company has created an eco-friendly way to raise money for the RSPCA and other charities.

Eco Racing sees participants buying a ‘balloon’ for their chosen charity, decorating it how they wish and then sending it off on a virtual race.

So far more than six centres and branches at the RSPCA have taken part in the unique event which raises funds to help animals in need and protects wildlife from the dangers of real-life balloon releases.

Evangeline Button, scientific officer at the RSPCA’s wildlife department, said: “This is a fantastic alternative to a real-life balloon race that uses all the positive symbolism of a balloon release, with none of the negatives. We always urge people to think of alternatives to balloon and lantern releases which can harm wildlife.

“What goes come up, must come down and although balloons released into the sky can make an impressive sight, sadly they can be lethal to animals.

“Deflated or fragments of balloons can be mistaken for food. Ingesting balloons can cause a slow death to wild birds and mammals as well as farm animals, horses and marine life, by blocking the digestive or respiratory tracts, and the attached strings can strangle.

“Even balloons that are classified as ‘degradable’ are unsafe, as they can take months to break down so still pose a risk.

“The RSPCA, along with other animal welfare groups, is calling for an end to balloon and sky lantern releases, and as an alternative, Eco Racing offers a creative idea on how to raise money for charity by releasing virtual balloons and saving animals lives.”

With many real-life events cancelled due to the pandemic, virtual events like balloon racing have become a vital way for the RSPCA to raise funds to help them continue to rescue, rehabilitate, release and rehome animals in desperate need of care.

Mike Phillips, founder of Eco Racing, said: “This is a seven-day computer simulation race where everything is real except the balloon. The software uses current live weather data to determine the progress of each balloon and every entry can be tracked on Google Maps and satellites after launching.

“It has no negative impact on birds or animals, is climate change positive and creates no litter. So it’s a safe, fun and easy way to raise funds, loved by both kids and adults alike.”

Supporters of a participating charity can buy a virtual balloon for £3 and personalise it with text, names, colour and patterns. In addition to this, they can change three different flight parameters – helium content, rubber thickness and balloon shape to suit the predicted weather forecast in order to enhance the opportunity of winning a £500 cash prize whilst raising money for good causes.

Claire Hunt, deputy manager at RSPCA Felledge Animal Centre, who has taken part in Eco Racing already, said: “This not only raises money for Felledge but it’s also a great way to highlight the need for reducing sky litter which the RSPCA campaigns on. One of our fantastic volunteers Fern Love joined us up to the race and created a page on the website, letting all our volunteers know and our supporters on Facebook. As she could no longer do any face-to-face fundraising during the pandemic she wanted to do something that would still help us.

“The race began on Christmas Day and ended New Years Day. I bought a few balloons myself and found the process quite fun, I even bought one for each niece and nephew as part of their Christmas present and they loved looking up their balloon during the race!”

The virtual balloon race raised £183 for RSPCA Felledge.

Claire added: “Fern was so proud she could find a way to replace that money she couldn't raise due to Covid. We are very lucky to have a volunteer who would try so hard for us!”

For more information visit: https://ecoracing.co/

For more ways to fundraise for the RSPCA visit: https://www.rspca.org.uk/getinvolved/fundraise

To get involved in the RSPCA’s End Sky Litter campaign visit: https://www.rspca.org.uk/getinvolved/campaign/endskylitter

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