We did it for charity! From scorpions to snakes and tarantulas to tree frogs, our team faced their worst fears from the animal kingdom to raise more than £500 for our chosen charity, The British Lung Foundation. Six of us conquered our phobias and made the trip down to Exotic Zoo in Telford to get up close and personal with Bowser and Tony the scorpions, Sweet Pea, Olive and Sid the snakes and Charlotte the tarantula. [caption id="attachment_7432" align="aligncenter" width="500"]Facing our fears for Charity Meeting some of the more 'cuddly' critters for our Face Your Fears charity challenge.[/caption] We also met a tree frog named Lola, a mossy frog named Buggles and a red-eyed tree frog whose name we can’t actually remember. As far as fundraising ideas go, this was one of the most nerve-wracking we have faced here at Virgin Balloon Flights - and a few years ago some of our team jumped out of a plane on a charity skydive! [caption id="attachment_7415" align="alignright" width="215"]Maria meets Tony the tail-less whip scorpion for charity. Maria meets Tony the tail-less whip scorpion.[/caption] We raised more than £500 and even made the news - you can see more photos of our terrified faces on both the Shropshire Star and Shropshire Live news websites. The British Lung Foundation (BLF) is Virgin Balloon Flights' chosen charity for 2016. The money will go towards our final goal of raising £27,500 by the end of the year, which will be used to raise awareness, support families and help fund research into conditions such as pulmonary fibrosis and COPD.

All For Charity

A couple of our team – Maria and Hannah – both recall the moment they held the creatures they were most afraid of. “I was absolutely terrified when Sam put the first scorpion in my hand – I couldn’t even look at it to start with,” said Maria. [caption id="attachment_7417" align="alignleft" width="225"]Charlotte the tarantula meets Wayne in aid of charity. Charlotte the tarantula meets Wayne.[/caption] “But the Exotic Zoo team are so calm that they really do put you at ease. It also helped that the animals were pretty chilled out too, as I’m not sure what I would have done if Bowser had gone running up my arm. “I’m really glad I did it though. I’ve been petrified of scorpions since I was a five-year-old so it was a huge thing for me to be able to hold both the scorpions they had at Exotic Zoo.” Prior to the challenge itself, the Virgin Balloon Flights team had sessions with Pete Bryceland, a master practitioner of neuro-linguistic programming from Telford to try and reduce their fears. Hannah raised the most money of all six participants before the big day arrived and could have chosen not to through with it as a result. But she showed she was made of sterner stuff than that by holding the tarantula anyway and said the NLP sessions had definitely helped. [caption id="attachment_7418" align="alignright" width="225"]Buggles the mossy frog. Buggles the mossy frog.[/caption] “I wasn’t sure I would be able to do it when we got there and they got the tarantula out. I did almost lose my nerve but forced myself to go through with it,” she said. “A huge thank you to Sam and everyone else at Exotic Zoo, plus our NLP practitioner Pete. Thanks to them, I don’t feel half as scared of spiders as I did before.” Even though the challenge itself is over, there’s still time to donate to any of the fundraising team’s Virgin Money Giving pages. Click here for this previous Face Your Fears post to see which one you think deserves your sponsorship the most! There are many more fundraising events planned for later in the year so stay tuned to find out more ways you can help our team with their fundraising efforts. You can also read more about our year-long partnership with the British Lung Foundation here.