The Big Pitch: Rotary Club of Somer Valley

Eight teams of Year 10 BTEC students from Somervale School, Midsomer Norton entered the Big Pitch Competition sponsored by the Rotary Club of Somer Valley. Over the past six months the teams presented their business ideas to a panel which then decided to award them a loan, funded by the club, to set up their own mini-business. The three short-listed teams went into the finals held at the Centurion Hotel, Midsomer Norton on Tuesday 2 February. The finalist presented their business plans to an audience of club members, guests and parents who voted for the team they thought was the best.

 Picture courtesy of the Midsomer Norton, Radstock & District Journal

Picture courtesy of the Midsomer Norton, Radstock & District Journal

The winning team of Amy Chapman, Shayla Hopson and Laura Snook received a cheque for £100. Their Bath Bomb Blitz business saw them selling home-made bath bombs to fellow students and teachers and to wider community at a Christmas events. As it was the festive season they created their own packaging specifically to appeal to Christmas shoppers.

Phil Edmonds, Chairman of the club’s Youth Committee praised all the entrants for their hard work and ingenuity, as did Mark Kenny, Somervale’s Deputy Head.




A chance meeting, determination and resourcefulness have led to the successful completion of the Rotary Club of Wrington Vale’s biggest ever single project.

Figure 1 Peter RoswellPeter

In the summer of 2014 Rotarian Peter Roswell met Doctor David MacIver at a garden party.  They had something in common in that Peter has a history of heart problems having had a heart bypass some 30 years ago and Doctor MacIver is a leading consultant cardiologist based at Musgrove Park Hospital, Taunton.  Their conversation led to Peter discovering that Dr MacIver is responsible for training cardiologists in the South West of England and that he was very keen to acquire some simulator equipment called “Heartworks” to improve the teaching facilities available to him and his colleagues.

Figure 2 Heartworks in actionUsing Heartworks

Heartworks, developed and manufactured by London based Inventive Medical Ltd (IML), is used to train cardiac clinicians in the interpretation of the ultrasound heart scans known as Echocardiograms (EKGs).  The equipment comprises a torso manikin (similar to the dummies used to train people in CPR techniques) which is connected to a computer.  There are also two probes.  One scans the heart through the chest wall.  The other is passed down through the oesophagus and can look at the heart from the back.  Trainees practice using the probes to generate the black and white EKG scans.  At the same time these are also projected as views of the heart in graphic detail as it would appear in real life. With over 40 different heart conditions programmed into the equipment, using such equipment gives a trainee or researcher a concentration of experience that would not be possible when learning on real life patients or cadavers which is the usual way of gaining knowledge of techniques.  Acquisition of the simulator will enable them to train cardiologists and others faster, in greater numbers and in more depth and ultimately more patients will receive lifesaving treatment.

Whilst the importance of the equipment was apparent it was not possible to obtain this through NHS budgets.  There were 37 systems in various parts of the NHS but none had been directly acquired by the NHS.  All had been purchased using charitable funds but, as we were to discover, none had involved Rotary.

The Plan

Inspired by what he had heard Peter came back to the club and shared his thoughts with a small number of members.  From that a plan was hatched to raise the money within Rotary.  Clearly the £60,000 price tag was too much for one club to raise on its own within a reasonable period of time especially as IML had agreed to hold the price for a while.  Given that the training would benefit the whole of District 1200 and indeed the adjoining districts the original concept was to encourage all affected clubs to contribute to the required fund.  District was approached and permission and support sought to visit all clubs to sell the project.  It was hoped that sufficient support would be found within the District to make a large contribution to the target.  At the same time Wrington Vale was working on fund raising plans of their own to make a substantial donation to the cause feeling that they must lead by example.

A visiting plan was drawn up.  Armed with a PowerPoint presentation teams of 2 were dispatched to District 1200 clubs. It was quickly discovered that timing is everything.  The visiting plan started in August 2014 which, whilst early in the Rotary year, was after clubs have normally made their plans for the year. Whilst encouraging messages were received it was to be some time before the commitments to provide funds started to come in.


Wrington Vale members, keen to show commitment, had already made personal contributions to kick start the fundraising.  The first contributions from clubs were received in November.  At the same time we were approaching local companies and had a list of Trusts that we understood would be sympathetic to medical projects.  Wrington Vale Rotary Club also held a Musical Evening which raised nearly £2500 and undertook bucket collections at Wyevale Sanders Nursery and Sainsbury.

We had always known that the target was going to be difficult but felt that with continued encouragement we would achieve the objective even if it meant going into a second year.  There were the neighbouring districts which we had conversations with and the ongoing approaches to District 1200 clubs and local businesses.

Then a stroke of good Rotary fortune.  Peter undertook a Heartworks presentation to Taunton Rotary Club and met with Peter Renshaw who is not only a Rotarian but Chair of The Friends of Musgrove Park Hospital who raise funds for hospital.  He felt that it might be possible for them to contribute a substantial sum to the project.  Any application for funds required to be presented by medical staff.  Following the initial presentation, a final decision was deferred pending further information.  We were not too down hearted at this since we were advised that several of the projects competing for funds had been declined without the opportunity to present again.  We had an ally in Dr David Grant, Associate Dean Simulation of Health Education South West which is responsible for Post Graduate Medical Education in the South West.  He had already committed his organisation to fund ongoing maintenance and future upgrades.  Following the further presentation we were delighted when we heard that The Friends had agreed generous and substantial support for our project to acquire the Heartworks equipment to be based at Musgrove Park and used for training across the South West.

Suddenly, with the funds we had already collected, we were over two thirds of the way there and the Rotary target had been considerably reduced.  We were just contemplating an application for a Global Grant to get us to the goal when a second huge bit of good fortune came our way.  Peter Roswell was talking to Trusts. One of them agreed to an anonymous five figure donation.  Therefore we had virtually achieved the target and were just waiting for the final promised funds to arrive.

At the time of writing the Heartworks equipment has been delivered and paid for and we are awaiting the official presentation of the equipment on 25th June 2015

We acknowledge and are grateful for the support of all donors, many of them individuals, members of Rotary Clubs and their families and local businesses both directly and indirectly and, of course the exceptional contributions by The Friends of Musgrove Park Hospital and the anonymous trust.  Special mention must also be made of the following Rotary Clubs several of whom put on special fundraising events:

Brue Valley, Chelwood Bridge, Weston super Mare, Bathavon,  Melcombe Regis,  Wells,  Ilminster, Bath, Midsomer Norton & Radstock, Langport & Somerton, Taunton Vale, Minehead & Quantocks, Mendip, Bridport, Wellington, Bridgwater, Crewkerne and, of course, Wrington Vale.

Our “heartfelt” thanks go to everyone for their support and their faith that we would achieve our goal.  It may have been achieved differently than planned and anticipated but, in reality, it was Rotarians operating in the best tradition of using skills, knowledge and professional contacts for the benefit of others.

On a personal note, Peter Roswell wishes to thank all those concerned for supporting his original idea.  Without the initial backing from his own club, the hard work and innovation by clubs and individuals his dream of raising this money would not have been possible.  It has been a unique experience and challenge for Wrington Vale Rotary Club.  Peter has fulfilled a wish to thank the NHS for the life-saving treatment he has received over the years in a way that means many more people can benefit from the excellent treatments on offer.

Footnote:  We are also delighted to report that David MacIver, following many years as a leading cardiologist, has been appointed a Professor.

Rotarians become caterers for the weekend!

For the fifth year running, the Rotary Clubs of Langport & Somerton and Brue Valley joined forces for the bank holiday weekend to cater for the 1,700 cyclists who took part in the annual Tour of Wessex Cycle event in Somerton. For three days the Rotary day started at 5.15am when the urns in the catering tent were switched on, and a huge bowl of porridge was started.

During a period of one hour approximately 90 cyclists consumed porridge, eggs, baked beans and large quantities of tea and toast before heading off on their tours of Somerset, Dorset & Wiltshire each day.

From 12 noon cyclists were returning, with just one thing on their minds – Brue Valley bacon baps, followed by tea and home made cakes.

During the weekend massive quantities of food were cooked and consumed (including over 1,100 eggs), all in aid of Freewheelers (Bloodbikes) and Wheelpower, who will benefit from the profits of this catering marathon.

A huge thanks to all Rotarians and their friends who helped at this event, and also to our sponsors who provided food and contributed to the success of this catering operation:

Jon Thorner’s Farm Shop – bacon & the chiller van
Framptons of Shepton Mallet – omelettes
Churchouse of Castle Cary – eggs
Barbours of Ditcheat  – cheese
Wyke Farms of Bruton –  cheese
Williams Supermarket, Somerton
Virador – waste disposal

Plus everyone who cooked quiches and cakes for the event.

All photographs courtesy of Chris James

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