This week is national Volunteers’ Week (1-7 June), a chance for charities to highlight the invaluable contribution made by their dedicated helpers. We certainly couldn't do what we do without ours! So a big THANK YOU to all our loyal volunteers, helping us raise vital funds to help sick babies and children.
Bike rides, PLODs, gala dinners, family fun days, golf days, gigs, sales and much more... all of our events rely on the skills and support of fantastic volunteers. Up and down the county our volunteer committees are constantly coming up with ways to raise money for us.
Sue Calvert (far right in picture) and her close friend Jane Burgess (far left) are a great example of some of the amazing things being achieved. Based in Thirsk, North Yorkshire, their two-woman committee has been raising funds for almost 30 years now. They started off small, running coffee mornings, and over the years their events grew. They have now been running an annual Action Dance every November for 24 years. But their biggest event is the Picnic in the Park concert, which started eight years ago. This year’s gig is on Saturday 13 July at Thirsk Hall and will be headlined by Queen tribute band Flash, supported by four-piece upcoming rock band My Forever.
Sue has a strong personal connection to Action Medical Research. Her second son Matthew was born 33 years ago, with spina bifida – a condition where the spine does not develop properly in the womb. Sadly, Matthew died after just a few hours.
After her loss Sue was contacted by Professor Dick Smithells of Leeds University. He had received funding from us to carry out a clinical trial to prove his theory that women taking vitamin supplements, including folic acid, before and during the early weeks of pregnancy would be at significantly lower risk of having a baby with spina bifida. Sue joined the trial and five months later became pregnant, going on to have another son, William, now 29, who was born healthy.
Sue’s knowledge of the benefits of medical research inspired her to become one of our busiest fundraisers. Between the two of them, Sue and Jane, who is also William’s godmother, organise their two big events each year. Sue also still works three days a week helping to run her family’s carpet business. So how does she do it all?
“I’m very passionate about the cause and I really believe in what I do. I think that’s so important,” she says. “Before I became involved with the charity I never spoke about Matthew, but now when I’m fundraising I find myself talking quite openly about him and my links to the cause. I proudly refer to myself as a ‘guinea pig’. People must understand that we need medical research to live, to move forward.
“Jane and I are very lucky to have some incredible followers and supporters who help us out every year. So many lovely people give us their time and we never ask anyone to do a job we wouldn’t be willing to do ourselves. We both muck in and are very hands on – we don’t mind heaving things around or getting our hands dirty!
“We’re always very busy and it can be hard to fit it all in. One year we put on five events and it was almost too much so now we concentrate on two, one in the summer and the dance in the winter. We’ve had the odd hiccup over the years but things always turn out fine in the end!”
David Graham, Head of Community and Events Fundraising at Action Medical Research, says: “We need people to get involved now more than ever. Our committed volunteers are at the heart of what we do and we are always looking for new recruits to help. There is so much you can do to join in – and have fun.”
You could join one of the charity’s existing groups or even start one of your own in your local area. For more information look at our volunteering page.
Happy Volunteers’ Week!