IN THIS year of mass celebrations for the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee a rather more subdued party has taken place to recognise another landmark 60th anniversary.
While party tea and games will be enjoyed in almost every village in south Lincolnshire in early June, there were actually a few tears when members and guests of the Spalding and District Committee of Action Medical Research got together to mark the charity’s diamond jubilee.
The tears were as a result of video clips that were shown of two young people with the kind of devastating health problems that the charity raises money to help, not with care in the community, but through research.
For instance, more than 3,000 babies in the UK die before their first birthday each year, and premature birth is the single biggest cause. Over the last five years, the focus of Action Medical Research has increased to find and fund the very best medical research to help stop the suffering of babies and children.
The charity has also given £250,000 for research on a bacteria all parents dread, meningitis.
Lincolnshire county chairman Petronella Keeling told those gathered at Elsoms Seeds for the reception: “Many young children under four years old or teenagers between 15 and 19 who become ill will die and survivors can be left with permanent disabilities. Many people do not realise there are several different strains of meningitis and there are vaccines for some, but not for Meningitis B.”
That is the serious side of Action Medical Research, but it is the fun and friendship that Petronella has particularly enjoyed during her association with the charity.
The Spalding committee is 45 years old this year, begun by Petronella when she was single and running a shop in the town called Petronella, next door to Law’s butcher’s, selling – unbelievably – Mary Quant and other trendy ’60s designer clothing.
Petronella and Christine Sly, who helped in the shop, were persuaded to put on a fashion show for the charity and then to form a committee, with Petronella as chairman and Christine, who is now living in New Zealand, as secretary.
The loyalty of various committee members was recognised at the reception with long service awards being presented by guest speaker Karen Jankel, the daughter of Michael Bond who created Paddington Bear, the charity’s mascot.
Awards went to treasurer Jill Warrick and Christine van Egmond (44 years), minute secretary Pauline Goose (43 years), cake maker and jam preserver extraordinaire Jane Marriott (28 years), Sarah Patterson (15 years), chairman Tracy Hull (14 years) and Petronella’s 45 years.
The charity’s focus when Petronella became involved was polio, something many people were suffering at that time, and one of its successes was in helping to develop the first oral polio vaccine. The charity was also responsible for the discovery of the importance of folic acid and the use of ultrasound scanning in pregnancy, testing the early rubella vaccine and creating the award-winning Matrix seating system to support disabled children.
Petronella says: “It’s been a wonderful charity to work for and it’s probably done as much for me as I have for it. It’s been good to make so many good friends through it and to have the opportunity to learn so much about how charities work, because I have sat on the trustee board as a county chair representative and as county chairman I work closely with head office. It’s brought me a lot of fun. It’s been a fantastic part of my life.”
The fashion shows stopped when Petronella’s shop closed, and she went on to marry Anthony and have three healthy children. However, there have been many more fun events through the years, such as Parisienne and Italian evenings, balls, parties and catering for Rotary dinners.
Today, the main fundraisers in Spalding are the popular Midsummer Ball – this year’s, on June 16, is sold out – and the Christmas Gift Fair at Springfields on November 12 (afternoon and evening) and 13 (all day).
The big event for the region is this year’s Plod, starting at midnight on September 14 on the shoreline of Rutland Water, when teams of trekkers walk a 40-mile route through darkness and into the next day.
Action Medical Research is also the charity behind the big bike rides, such as London to Paris, UK End2End, and other challenges throughout the world.
There may have been tears at the charity’s reception, but there was also an awful lot to celebrate.