I am determined to get my first big cyber-donation for Leukaemia Research, so please pass this among any rich friends and relatives you think might have a spare fifty grand, or any businesses who are doing ok despite the recession and looking for new Corporate Social Responsibility schemes.
Then I will get them along to the kind of event I hosted last night, where we spelled out for existing and potential supporters the reason we are asking.
It was at Somerset House, a lovely venue on a nice summer’s evening, and we kicked off with a short film on the Eastwood family from Middlesbrough, whose fundraising after their daughter’s death from leukaemia almost fifty years ago started the whole thing. Back then, the charity invested £3000 in research. Today it is over £20million, and it is leading to hugely improved survival rates – from zero to eight out of ten for children, three out of ten for adults.
Then I explained my own involvement, inspired by the death of my best friend John Merritt and his daughter Ellie, how I got into running and then triathlon, and now act as chairman of fundraising.
I interviewed two survivors, one adult, one child. The adult was pianist and composer Patrick Doyle, who has written a stack of film scores from Harry Potter to Bridget Jones’ diary, Sense and Sensibility to our very own Calendar Girls. He spoke very movingly of how he thought when he was diagnosed his number was up, but said he owed his life to the new research that had been done, and the care of the medics looking after him. The child was a young boy called Joe Smale whose family, like Patrick, have now become involved in major fund-raising efforts.
I also interviewed the consultant who is treating Joe, Nick Goulden from Great Ormond Street, who said the progress made in survival rates is directly down to the programmes funded by the charity. Professor Ghulam Mufti, head of heamatology at Kings College, Guy’s and St Thomas’s medical school, said that thanks to Leukaemia Research, Britain was a world-leader in the field, and that the impact was felt on many more cancers, not just blood cancers.
It was left to me and Cathy Gilman, a former volunteer who got involved because of the death of her cousin and is now chief executive, to do the ‘hard sell,’ trying to get 50 donations of £50k for our fiftieth anniversary next year in an exercise called the Big 5-0.
The Big 5-0 was planned in happier economic times when frankly we thought we would get the money in fairly easily. It is proving a bit tougher than we thought, but we are getting there, with a mix of individuals and businesses as varied as the Royal Garden hotel,who are adding 50p to every booking as a way of helping towards their 50k for us; Celebrity Speakers, one of my speaking agencies; a property company called Dransfield who have just done a Lyon to Marseilles bike ride; TV Times, long-term supporters; an events and communications agency called Upstage; London Marathon. So it may be tough, but we are getting there.
The charity is putting together individual packages with all of the donors. Some will just write out a cheque. Others will do a whole stack of staff events to get there. Some will do a mix. And all of them can be guaranteed the money will do what it says on the label – research into finding a cure, and meantime delivering better treatments, for this horrible disease.
Researchers and medics mixed and mingled, and one of the doctors there told me that a good friend of ours, who was diagnosed last year, has been moved to intensive care, and is really not well. As if I needed any reminder of the importance of the cause.
Pictures and video of the event to follow … meanwhile will someone please win the race to become my first major charitable cyber-hit. We’re very good at thinking up prizes to suit the individual.