Our journey 1999 to date
We first became involved with Leukaemia and Lymphoma Research in early 1999. Our son [and Isabel’s brother] had been diagnosed with acute lymphoblastic leukaemia in Oct 1998, a month before his 9th birthday. Unfortunately Jamie had a very resistant variant and we never managed to get him to a stable remission.
Needless to say we contacted everyone we could think of that might give us hope for a different treatment, including the Leukaemia Research Fund (as it was then called).
By May 1999, however, it was clear that we had run out of options. Tom Coleman, one of Jamie’s school friends, found out about the 1999 London Bikeathon which had a children’s ride in Battersea Park and Tom along with some of the teachers and other pupils at Jamie's school entered.
Despite having been in hospital late the night before for a blood transfusion, Jamie had insisted on going to cheer on his friends and teachers and their families who were taking part in the Bikeathon. Although he was very weak he surprised everyone by getting out of his wheelchair, commandeering his friend Tom’s bike and completing 2 laps of the Battersea Park circuit. From Battersea Park he went on to Trinity Hospice to hear Battersea Young Strings (BYS) perform, where he greatly enjoyed being pushed around the beautiful grounds in his wheelchair by a number of friends from the orchestra. We have some great pictures from that day including Jamie with Gary Lineker. A great day, which epitomised Jamie's fighting spirit and determination to make the most of every second - made all the more powerful in retrospect given that Jamie died just two weeks later.
The starting point for our fundraising was organizing 2 concerts in 2000 at the Royal Opera House incorporating BYS (the youth orchestra that Jamie and Isabel played with) [the very amateur web site is still live @ http://www.leukaemia.freeserve.co.uk/royaloperahouse/]. The final amount raised was around £80,000! We even managed to get London Weekend TV to do a piece promoting the concert and LRF.
Since then the fundraising has just grown (apologies to those who have been on this journey with us since the beginning - we know you must be bored of our requests for sponsorship by now!). You can see a video of Isabel and friends appearing on Blue Peter to launch the Blue Peter Bikeathons plus more on our YouTube channel.
Our friend Andrew Roberts ran an annual “Stock Exchange Game” in Birmingham and he subsequently got his firm Grant Thornton on board as a corporate supporter.
In 2007 my then employer, Oracle Corporation, wanted to something different at the annual sales conference in Disney Paris. They decided that they would try and break the Guinness World Record for the longest painting by numbers. Knowing of my interest and support of LRF they decided to make it an even greater team building event by not simply breaking the record but setting out to raise more than £50,000 for LRF in the process. I am pleased to say both were achieved [http://www.worldrecordacademy.com/biggest/longest_painting_made_by_oracle_set_world_record_70559.htm]. By getting donations plus selling the 120 “panels” more than £65,000 was raised.
It's difficult to get to a concrete total for our fundraising to date but my best estimate is that in total we have raised – directly and indirectly – somewhere in excess of £200,000.
But it hasn’t been just fundraising. My wife Jane became a volunteer for the charity at head office and used her computer consultancy skills and her accountancy training to help select and implement new computer systems for LRF. She subsequently became Finance Director from 2003 to 2005. Isabel too volunteered at head office during school holidays in the fundraising department.
As a family we have all volunteered at various events including the Blue Peter Bikeathons in London [Isabel was one of the children to appear on BP promoting the 1st event] and the annual Carols with the Stars.
So here we are again: This will be our 15th London Bikeathon [16th if you count 1999].
Matching the amount of sponsorship we achieved in the early years remains a challenge but on-line sponsorship, social media etc at least makes it more possible to reach distant friends, colleagues etc. Isabel showed it can still be done as last year £6,500 was raised for her London-Barcelona ride.
So on to 2014!! For the last 10 years I have ridden the 26 mile route. But very rashly I have agreed to do the 52 with Isabel – and now her cousins Vikki and Matt. I will be virtually 62 by the time of the ride and age is definitely taking its toll! Obviously the need to get fit is all too apparent
If you can please sponsor us!! You can follow us on Twitter @Brian_Izzy_Bike and @brian_gregory