[caption id="attachment_7327" align="aligncenter" width="500"]Exotic Zoo Face Your Fears As close as we hope we'll have to get to Charlotte, Venom and the albino python whose name we didn't catch![/caption] Our motto for 2016 is ‘Take Life Higher’. And we don’t just mean that in the literal sense. This is the year when we will be pushing ourselves out of our comfort zones as much as we can and that includes fundraising ideas for our chosen charity, The British Lung Foundation. Our first big fundraising event of the year is the Face Your Fears Challenge, which will see our staff get up close and personal with the animal they’re most scared off – from scorpions to rats and tarantulas to snakes. And there’s a motivational twist to the challenge, because the one team member who raises the most money won’t have to go through with it on the day. Aided in our challenge by the team (both human and animal) from Telford’s Exotic Zoo, we have until Thursday 24th March 2016 to raise as much money as we can. And because we really love each other here at Virgin Balloon Flights, we’re not going to send our staff in to face their phobias completely unprepared. Not only do the team at Exotic Zoo spend time preparing you to face your phobia of their animals but Telford-based NLP (neuro linguistic programming) expert Pete Bryceland will also spend time ‘training’ our fundraising volunteers to conquer their fear ahead of the challenge. Read on to find out more about who will be taking part and which animal they’ll be forced to hold if they don’t raise the most sponsorship. To save… sorry, we mean sponsor your favourite team member, click on their photo for the link to their Virgin Money Giving fundraising page.

Fundraising to help save MariaMaria

I hate scorpions. No, that’s not right. I am absolutely, positively, 100%, completely and utterly terrified of those evil, sting-happy, armour-plated, angry little bringers of pain. Ever since watching Honey I Shrunk The Kids way back in my childhood, I've struggled to even look at a picture of a scorpion without breaking out in a cold sweat. And I’ve never forgotten the nightmares I had as a six-year-old after my teacher Mrs Moore read us ‘The Scorpion’ from Roald Dahl’s Dirty Beasts. It took my mum weeks to convince me that Stingaling wasn’t hiding in my bed beneath the duvet just waiting to strike. So of course I had to open by big mouth when the 'Face Your Fears' challenge was announced in aid of our chosen charity The British Lung Foundation. Now I’m facing the teeth-chattering reality of having to actually hold one those venomous little clawed arachnids. I’m willing to put aside my pride and literally plead with you wonderful people to save me from the creature of my nightmares with your donations. Please choose me! So thank you, whoever is reading this, from the bottom of my heart for any part you might play in saving me from this. You're awesome, you really are and I love you for it!

HannahFundraising to help save Hannah

To raise money for The British Lung Foundation our nominated charity for 2016, I have been tasked with the very scary proposition of getting up close and personal with a tarantula. As far as fundraising ideas go, this has got to be one of the most difficult to me to do. I’d rather jump out of a plane than hold a spider. From a young age I've always been terrified of them and can't even bear to be in the same room as one. Although very beautiful, the thought of a tarantula being anywhere near me makes me want to cry (I'm actually shaking as I'm typing)! Please sponsor me. It's for a great cause and the team member who raises the most doesn't have to 'face their fear' - please help this be me! A little dollar could make a lot of difference and any donation, however small, makes a big difference. Thanks loads in advance. *insert smiley*

Fundraising to help save WayneWayne

I recently enjoyed a few days holiday from work. It's a mistake I won't be making again! I arrived for my first day back in the office to find the kind and caring people I have worked alongside for the past few years had volunteered me for a Face Your Fears Challenge. Now don't get me wrong, it's fundraising for a fantastic cause. The British Lung Foundation is our chosen charity at work for 2016 and the work they do supporting people with lung disease is truly wonderful. But they're making me hold a spider. A SPIDER! Those eight-legged incarnations of pure terror, with their unpredictable scurrying, unnecessarily large number of eyes and evil, murderous fangs that they love sinking in to the flesh of a poor, unsuspecting victim. If they think I scream like a baby at the sight of a common house spider in the office, I'm going to deafen them when they make me hold Charlotte the Tarantula! So go on, in the spirit of giving, please hit my donate button and save me from facing my ultimate fear and receive my eternal gratitude in return.

HelenFundraising to help save Helen

Fact - rats are the worst animal ever. They absolutely terrify me and the thought of holding one makes me feel physically sick. So I'm not overly impressed that my wonderful team at work thought it was a great idea to rope me in to a Face Your Fears Challenge that involves doing exactly that! And not just any rat but a giant rat. With a great big long tail and bitey, chompy teeth. This year, Virgin Balloon Flights is raising money for the British Lung Foundation as our chosen charity. But if I manage to raise the most, those same lovely colleagues who talked me into this will each have to hold the animal they're most scared of - but I won't! So go on, hit the donate button so we can not only raise lots of money for a brilliant cause but so I can raise the most money and laugh at the rest of them when they realise they're doing the challenge and I'm not! Thanks so much!

Fundraising to help save MattMatt

So my awesome colleagues thought it would be a great idea to hold a Face Your Fears Challenge to raise money for The British Lung Foundation. And I agreed that it was a great idea. Until they informed me I would have to hold the animal I'm most scared of. And that's snakes. I hate them. I only agreed to take part because there is one get-out clause in this. The person who raises the most money doesn't have to go through with the challenge on the day. We're a competitive lot here at Virgin Balloon Flights but I reckon I can definitely raise more than any of the others. So you, yes, YOU, can help save me from having to get up close and personal with a reptile I really don't want to get up close and personal with, while also fundraising for a really brilliant cause. If you can spare a few quid, please hit the donate button and I will be eternally grateful. Thanks in advance!

JulieFundraising to help save Julie

It's typical, isn't it? One day at work you happen to mention in passing that you're really frightened of snakes. Months down the line, your wonderful colleagues haven't forgotten and you somehow get talked into joining the office fundraiser Face Your Fears Challenge in aid of the British Lung Foundation. Snakes absolutely petrify me. Up until I was convinced to take part in this fundraiser, there is no way I would even be in the same room as a snake. Now I find myself faced with having to actually hold one. To be honest, the only reason I was convinced to do it is because it was for such a great charity. One in five poeple in the UK suffer from some form of lung disease and the British Lung Foundation does such wonderful work to fund both support and research into cures and treatments. There is still a chance I could get out of this and luckily, that way also involves me raising the most money. If I can get get more money fundraising than any of my colleagues, I'll be let off having to face my fear while all the others will have to go through with theirs. So if you can spare a bit of money to sponsor me, it would be very gratefully received indeed! Thank you for taking the time to read this and an even bigger thank you to all those who donate to save me from a close encounter with my reptile nightmare!

Fundraising to help save ShawnShawn

I hate spiders. I'm terrified of them. But I'd hold a dozen spiders over having to touch a frog. Unfortunately for me, that's exactly what I've got to do if I don't raise the most money for the British Lung Foundation in work's Face Your Fears Challenge! Our house is built right across an old migration route for frogs and toads. Prior to finding this out, in our infinite wisdom, we thought a pond would be a nice feature for the garden. It turns out we were right. It looks lovely. Apart from the frogs. I've basically been evicted from my own garden by slimy, jumpy little creatures that use my pond to make even more slimy, jumpy little creatures. It's the most popular, all-inclusive holiday resort for frogs on the street! So it's bad enough that I can't even go in my own garden, now my lovely colleagues want me to actually hold one of the things I have nightmares about. It's all in aid of a great cause but the only way I can get out of this is if I raise the most money. It's my get out of jail free card so please, if you can find it in your heart to save me from this terrible fate, please click the donate button and sponsor me if you can. Thanks so much!

NatSave-Nat

Ok, so I've only got a few weeks to raise more money for the British Lung Foundation than any of my colleagues or I'm going to have to face my worst fear - snakes! It sounded like a great idea when I was first asked if I wanted to take part in the Face Your Fears challenge. Helping charities as much as we can has always been a big part of what we do here at Virgin Balloon Flights and because this was for a great cause, I said yes to fundraising straight away. Then I found out I'd have to not only be in the same room as a snake but actually hold one. A real life, living and breathing snake. The thing I am probably most scared of on this earth. But the one light at the end of the tunnel I'm holding on to is that I can raise more money in sponsorship that the rest of them, which means I'll be the only one to actually get out of going through with it on 23rd March! So please, if you can spare a few quid, not only is it an amazingly good cause but you'll be saving this poor women from the thing of her nightmares! Thank you so much. BLF_LOGOThe British Lung Foundation The British Lung Foundation offers hope and support to the tens of thousands of people in the UK suffering from a range of lung conditions, including chronic obstructive pulmonary disease or COPD, mesothelioma, lung cancer, asthma and interstitial lung disease such as idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis. Lung disease affects more than 12 million people in the UK – that equates to one in five of us. Virgin Balloon Flights has pledged to raise at least £27,500 for the charity by the end of 2016 through a variety of fundraising initiatives.