I’m off to a meeting this morning with Cathy Gilman, chief executive of Leukaemia Research, to review the charity’s plans for our fiftieth anniversary next year.
Every organisation has a history but I think ours is particularly symbolic of the role charity plays in British culture. It started literally with one child’s death almost sixty years ago, and one family who wanted to turn the grief they felt into good for others.
Susan Eastwood was a giggly little six year old living with her family on an estate in Middlesbrough when she was struck down by leukaemia. Back then, childhood leukaemia was a virtual death sentence.
When she died, her parents David and Hilda couldn’t face the idea that her death was without any purpose. Without knowing what they would do with it, they decided to raise some money by selling off her favourite toys and possessions. They found that other people wanted to support them.
Eventually they raised £3,000 and took that cheque to the first dedicated leukaemia research unit at Great Ormond Street Hospital. From those beginnings, Leukaemia Research the charity was born. We still have the same Forget Me Not logo designed by the Eastwoods.
Today Leukaemia Research is a £20 million a year charity. More important, because of its work, a child hit by leukaemia now has a ninety per cent chance of survival.
If you go to the charity page of this site, you will see why I got involved – the death of my best friend John Merritt and his daughter Ellie back in the 1990s. I am now chairman of fundraising.
It is never that easy asking for money. But it has certainly been made harder by the credit crunch and the economic situation. But these good causes do not go away with the bad times. On the contrary, the need becomes greater.
Our meeting this morning is specifically about plans for something called The Big Five-0, a plan to get fifty organisations or individuals to donate 50,000 pounds for our fiftieth anniversary. There are still an awful lot of generous people out there. There are still people with considerable wealth.
I’m hoping that some of them chance across here or that you might know someone, who knows someone, who just might have the money and the desire to help this great charity.
They can contact me here, or go direct to the charity at lrf.org.uk or 0207 405 0101.