accessibility & help

First aid volunteer pops the question at Bristol International Balloon Fiesta

13 August 2015

Volunteering is known to be good for your self-esteem, your CV and your health. Two Bristol volunteers have proved it can also be good for your love-life by getting engaged during a first aid duty at the Bristol International Balloon Fiesta.

36-year-old Marie Davis, from Fishponds, is walking on air after boyfriend of two years Tim Johnston, 33, from Stapleton, popped the question among the balloons in the middle of the arena during the Fiesta’s atmospheric nightglow on Saturday (8 August).

Marie, a newly-qualified social worker who has been a Red Cross first aid volunteer for 24 years, was surprised and delighted by Tim’s proposal - which took place almost two years to the day since the pair first swapped numbers while volunteering at a previous Balloon Fiesta. Marie and Tim were part of a team of 120 Red Cross volunteers providing first aid to members of the public attending the four-day event.

Marie says: “I had no idea what he had planned until just before it happened when Tim started acting a little bit strange. He’d arranged for us to have our meal break together and led me through the arena with all the balloons lighting up around us for the nightglow. He grabbed my hand, dropped down on one knee and said, ‘Will you marry me? I said yes straight away. It was so sweet. Then the fireworks went off!”

Tim presented Marie with an antique gold and diamond solitaire ring he had spent a month searching for and then turned his new fiancée to face members of the local media who recorded the moment, having been tipped off in advance. Then the dedicated first aider went straight back on duty (sharing the happy news with her fellow volunteers, many of whom found out before members of her own family).

Tim, a mental health nurse who joined the Red Cross three and-a-half years ago and provides logistics support at events, says: “I’d decided about six weeks ago that this was the right time to propose. I knew Marie was the right person for me. She’s unbelievably caring, she’s always thinking about the other person, she’s incredibly down to earth and you can discuss anything with her – she’ll always come up with an answer that’s spot on. We can talk for hours, she’s great fun and being around her makes me feel good.”

The couple are planning a wedding in the New Year with Red Cross volunteers already signed up to help and join in the celebrations. And they hope their story may inspire others to get in touch about volunteering, saying it’s a great way to make friends and support people in crisis.

Marie says: “It was so thoughtful of Tim to propose at the Balloon Fiesta where it all began two years ago and it was very fitting that it was a Red Cross proposal as we are both so involved in and passionate about the organisation. Most of our strongest and oldest friendships are through volunteering and it’s such a privilege to be able to support someone when they’re going through a crisis like an unexpected illness or injury at an event.”

Tim says: “Volunteering gives you the chance to learn new skills, support people at a time of crisis and work with others who want to give back to society and make a big difference. The training and experiences I’ve had at the Red Cross have given me so much confidence.”

Marie adds: “Without volunteering we wouldn’t have met. I had kind of given up on relationships and decided to focus on my career when I met Tim. Now I’ve got both! I’m still on cloud nine!”

The Red Cross has a history of providing first aid cover at major events in the region including St Paul’s Carnival and WOMAD. To find out about volunteering please contact Fiona Gundry on 0117 3012622 or

To find out more about the Red Cross please visit


Notes to editors

For more information or interviews call Rebecca McIlhone on 0117 3012624 or email

Around 40 trained Red Cross first aiders (most of whom are volunteers) provide first aid cover each day at the Balloon Fiesta, making sure fiesta-goers get the medical help they need in the event of illness or injury.

The charity’s volunteers staff minor and major injuries units situated in the Red Cross’s three emergency response inflatable tents as well as a welfare unit for volunteers and staff. Volunteers crew four Red Cross ambulances, on site each day to ensure the organisation is able to respond to all incidents, including 999 calls, and transport patients to hospital.

Red Cross volunteers carry out a range of roles including providing first aid, logistics and communications support to the teams during events so there are different roles to suit different people.