ROSSLYN CHAPEL (SCOTLAND)
Scotland’s historic Rosslyn Chapel had already survived thousands of winters, but by 2009, there was concern about how many years it had left. Dampness, temperature fluctuation, and acid rain had all taken their toll on Rosslyn’s beautiful limestone walls and carvings — and a sudden influx of tourists drawn by a mention in Dan Brown’s The Da Vinci Code had similarly stressed its interior. The problem was simple: Rosslyn Chapel needed to raise money to fund its preservation. How to do that, however, was proving much more complicated.
The solution came in an unexpected form: a cat named William, who traveled from a nearby village every day for an afternoon nap. We spotted him on our first visit, and knew the chapel had a star on its hands. So, rather than making a one-time gift to Rosslyn, we offered to fund the creation of a children’s book centered around William to both spread the word about the chapel and underwrite the preservation.
The results have exceeded even our wildest dreams. “William the Cat and the Rescue of Rosslyn Chapel,” drawn by the celebrated Scottish illustrator Rosie Wellesley and written by Lady Rosslyn herself, has single-handedly raised more than $100,000 for the chapel, and is already in its second printing. But just as impactfully, William has become both a major tourist draw on his own, as well as an additional source of revenue for Rosslyn in the form of the William-branded tea cozies, towels, t-shirts and other products available in the gift shop. (According to one reviewer on TripAdvisor, “I went to Rosslyn Chapel just for the cat.”)
As a foundation, the experience reaffirmed our belief in giving the gift of story, and our understanding that when you allow people, organizations and — yes — cats like William to shine, the impact ripples out in incredible, unexpected ways.