The RNLI has been a part of my life for as long as I can remember. I come from a seafaring family and my dad taught me to sail on the winding rivers of East Anglia. After a career in the merchant navy, he found his way into the RNLI as a training officer. And he was smitten. He loved being out on the water and was soon responsible for all of the lifeboat stations on the east coast of England, from Berwick-upon-Tweed down to Rye Harbour.

Stories of my dad’s time with the lifeboat service have become part of our family folklore. The time he arrived home with a car boot full of lobsters, for example, but neglected to tell my mother that they were still alive.

And now that I volunteer for the RNLI myself, I have a growing library of lifeboat stories of my own. Stories of the many brave people I have the honour to know.

The women and men of the RNLI are my family, just as much as are my father, my mother and my three sisters. I have grown up with them and know them as my own kin. We share a bond that is not easily broken.

When my dad died six years ago, over a decade after his retirement from the lifeboat service, I was helping my mum to organise his funeral. “I’ve put the cards from RNLI people in the living room,” she said. I stuck my head around the door. There were cards, indeed. Several hundred of them. And all with an intensely personal message and a story to tell.

I started the LEGO lifeboat crew as a way to tell these stories. To show what life in the RNLI is like and to promote the work that we do to keep people safe on the coast and at sea. And the ‘little guys’ have been embraced as part of the RNLI family in a way that I could never have imagined.

You’re part of this family, too. Whether you’re a crew member, a lifeguard, a fundraiser, an education presenter, a shop volunteer, a supporter or just someone who cares about the lifesaving work that we do.

And we’ll always be there for you.

Whatever the season of the year, whatever the time of day or night, whatever the weather. When the ‘mayday’ call goes out, when the pagers go off, when a faint cry echoes out over the crash of the waves. The women and men of the RNLI will be there.

There is nothing that my dad would not have done for his family. And there is nothing that our RNLI family would not do to help you or those that you hold dear.

But we can’t do it without your help. Please give us your permission to stay in touch. And do it now.

Simon Perks is founder of the LEGO lifeboat crew. Read their stories on Twitter, on Facebook, on Instagram and on their very own blog. This post was first published on the RNLI‘s ‘Communication Saves Lives‘ blog as part of the charity’s ‘opt-in’ campaign.

Photo credit: Helen Lazenby

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