Inspiring men

Published on 27. May, 2012 by in Charity


Earlier this week I had a very special day, having had the opportunity to have lunch in the presence of some really really remarkable people. To say that I was inspired would be an understatement.

The occasion that I have been celebrating was a Muscular Dystrophy Campaign Vice-President’s lunch to mark the 90th year of Lord Walton of Detchant. Now, if like me before this week, you know little about John Walton, let me fill you in. Lord Walton is a politician and quite a lot more. Sitting as a cross bencher in the House of Lords, Lord Walton is a peer from a humble upbringing whose career has been dedicated to medicine, with a primary focus on research into Muscular Dystrophy.

Lord Walton of Detchant

A founder of the Muscular Dystrophy Group (the predecessor of MDC) Lord Walton has been at the forefront of the considerable work that took the condition from being very poorly understood to where it is now, on the verge of developing promising treatments to manage the disease. At 90 years old, I believe Lord Walton remains a practicing physician and clinician. He has been president of almost every prestigious body in the world of medicine, but most remarkably his enthusiasm for the cause appears undiminished.

The tributes at the lunch, from those who know him and those with far more expertise in his field than I could ever have, were effusive. Clearly he is regarded as an incredible man, a very good friend and a living legend of neuro-muscular medicine. To give some impression of his esteem, the patron of MDC, Prince Philip, the Duke of Edinburgh managed to take time out of what must be an incredibly busy schedule to spend two hours having lunch with Lord Walton and the 50 or so key MDC supporters  gathered for the event at the Royal Society. Another remarkable nonogenerian, Prince Philip clearly held Lord Walton in high affection.

Perhaps the most remarkable testament to Lord Walton is to hear him address a room, without a microphone, and recount anecdotes of his work, and the fight against Muscular Dystrophy. I don’t know many 90 year olds, but if there is one who is more eloquent and inspiring I would be astonished. His rallying call to all those assembled for his lunch really hit a chord: “thank you for all your hard work over the years, now if you could all just try your best to work a little harder”.

Another key speaker during the afternoon was Michael Attenborough, speaking on behalf of his father Sir Richard Attenborough, a key supporter and Life President of MDC. Although Dicky Attenborough is now quite poorly following a fall a few years ago, what came across was the incredible commitment to the cause that the early founders and supporters of MDC made. It is no exaggeration to say that they dedicated a significant chunk of their life to the charity and to improving the lives of those affected by Muscular Dystrophy.

But what of the future? While these are remarkable guys who have achieved and contributed so much, they have already enjoyed remarkable longevity. The lunch, more than ever, made me realise the importance of my commitment to the cause. To survive, charities need a continuous feed of people willing to take up the baton as the previous generation moves on. I want to be one of those people.

I am proud to say I am already working to be increasingly involved with the charity and hope to do more and more as time goes by. As with all charities in the current economic climate, cashflow can be the biggest challenge. Fundraising, and particularly asking anyone for money is not something that comes easily to me. But I understand that the great work that Lord Walton and others have achieved will only progress if people (like me)  who want to do as much as they can for the cause, also share responsibility for securing funds.  Beyond my obvious personal involvement with MDC, I really believe that it is making meaningful differences to many people affected by the numerous conditions it supports.

So if in coming months or years I come to you (my friends) with another ask, for some new event that I am helping to fundraise for, and it doesn’t seem long after the ask before, please have patience and understand my motivation. It genuinely won’t be an ask for any personal gain (even indirectly, because sadly, promising as these pioneering potential treatments are, we all realise that is very unlikely that they will be developed soon enough to have an impact on Jon’s condition).

Of course, I appreciate that everyone is feeling the effects of the current economic difficulties and there is not a lot of spare money. Just as I am asking you to understand me sending such asks, I will also completely understand that people will only be able or want to support a selection. So if you receive a request please don’t feel any burden of expectation, other than that you will read it, consider it and make whatever decision is right for you, your families and your circumstances at the time.

So, is anyone up for a nice Christmas sing song? Watch this space for more details of  a south coast Spirit of Christmas concert in the theme of Similar existing events in Oxford and Gloucester. And now to think up some more events….

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