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Fundraiser receives inaugural Lenny Award for outstanding commitment to Red Nose Day

Melanie May | 20 March 2024 | News

Rae Saleem, winner of the inaugural Lenny Award

A fundraiser who defied the odds after an accident that left him paralysed from the neck down and with brain damage, has won the inaugural Lenny Award in recognition of his outstanding dedication and commitment to fundraising for Red Nose Day.

The Lenny Award, named in honour of Sir Lenny Henry (who hosted his final Red Nose Day last week), celebrates individuals “who go the extra mile and lead the fundraising charge with endless enthusiasm”.

Rae Saleem had his accident six years ago and has fought back to recover and overcome physical challenges as well as financial hardship and mental health struggles.


Why your supporters are wealthier than you think... Course by Catherine Miles. Background photo of two sides of a terraced street of houses.

From physical endurance challenges to community-wide events, since his accident Saleem has continuously gone above and beyond to raise funds for those in need. Last year, he raised £3,700 with the London Monopoly Run which saw him gather the community and run to every London location featured in the popular board game. In 2022 he organised his first multi-disciplined 4-hour group fitness event, then rowed, ran, cycled and cross-trained 82 miles the following day encouraging the community to join him. 

This year, he climbed into the saddle at his local gym to start a community 12-hour Spin-a-thon with over 60 participants to raise funds for this year’s Red Nose Day. He surpassed his initial £2,500 target, raising over £4,000 which brings his total raised for Comic Relief over the years to over £11,000.

Rae Saleem holding his Lenny Award

Saleem commented:

“The work Comic Relief does with mental health and poverty is big for me because I struggled with both after my accident. Wondering what type of father I would be with my life confined to a bed. We were also on the verge of being evicted, and it really opened my eyes in terms of how quickly life can change.


“What I really want is to bring the community together and give others the belief that they can achieve so much more. Red Nose Day really does bring people together, it’s lots of fun and works for so many great causes that I have personally benefitted from at home, and abroad. I am now so grateful and honoured to be in a position where I can give back in some small way.


“My attitude has changed. For me this is a second chance and I’m grabbing it with both hands. I love Comic Relief, I always watched it as a child on TV but now I can watch knowing that I’ve made a contribution which makes me immensely proud.”

Sir Lenny Henry, who presented Saleem with the award during Friday’s Comic Relief: More Funny for Money on BBC 2, commented: 

“It is my great honour to introduce the winner of the first-ever Lenny Award, Rae Saleem. Comic Relief are lucky to have Rae fundraising for them. I’d like to thank him for everything he’s done.”

Samir Patel, Comic Relief CEO, added:

“Rae is an inspiration. There are a number of less challenging fundraising activities Rae could have done to help raise money for Red Nose Day. His journey is awe inspiring, he represents the spirit of Comic Relief, his boldness, creativity and determination make him a very worthy winner of our first ever Lenny Award.”

BBC Children in Need Award

BBC Children in Need also has a special award for fundraisers, named in honour of the late Sir Terry Wogan, who co-hosted the annual TV fundraising event, and was a Life President. BBC Children in Need created The Sir Terry Wogan Fundraiser of the Year Award in 2016 (now The Sir Terry Wogan Young Fundraiser of the Year) to recognise an outstanding individual or group for their fundraising for the charity. Last year, this was won by Joel who cycled 600km from England to the Netherlands.