Local charity gears up for fun run

Hundreds of runners, including reporters from JesmondLocal, are set to take part in a local charity’s fun run around Jesmond Dene on May 17th.

Bright Red, a local blood cancer charity based at the Freeman Hospital, are celebrating their fifth anniversary in style by hosting a five kilometre fundraising event around Paddy Freeman’s Park, with the aim to raise as much money as possible for their cause.

“The atmosphere is absolutely electric,” stated Graham Smith, who helped to plan and organise the very first Freeman Fun Run. “Seriously, it’s an event with an atmosphere that I’ve never experienced before – if you could bottle the atmosphere you’d be a millionaire.”

The charity, which was previously called ‘Marrow and Stem Cell Transplant 2000’, was re-branded Bright Red five years ago. It was originally formed to further the progress of academic haematology and support the transplant centre.

“This was all driven by a gentleman called Stephen Proctor. He was a doctor and researcher at the hospital and really, can be credited with making the north east one of the best places to be for blood cancer patients,” said Ashley Elliot, one of the event organisers.

A JesmondLocal team at last year's event.

A JesmondLocal team at last year’s event.

Elliot told JesmondLocal that when Proctor retired six years ago the charity trustees decided they wanted to develop its work further by expanding its focus to not just research, but also working to improve patient care and staff development, creating a larger presence with their fundraisers in the process. “So we became Bright Red five years ago,” said Elliot.

“Since the rebranding I think we’ve come a long way. We now have a visible presence which goes a massive way in creating a sustainable charity.”

Just recently the charity invested £250,000 in a cytometer machine to count, measure and classify cell properties, as well as detecting rare particles in blood. “It was a brilliant moment as it felt like we’d really made it then. For a local charity investing that much money into a single piece of equipment made us really proud. It will help our researchers for many years to come,” said Elliot.

“The big difference with Bright Red is that, in my opinion, it’s a charity where you can see where every penny raised actually goes,” Smith added. “It doesn’t seem to get caught up in admin costs unlike many of the other, bigger, charities.”

But it’s not just machinery the charity are investing in. Currently Bright Red are in the process of renovating their isolation rooms for patients undergoing intensive therapies. Stem cell transplants are a common treatment for blood cancers, but this means patients are left with little or no immune system to combat infections and as a result have to spend days or weeks in isolation.

“Every four minutes a person is diagnosed with blood cancer,” said Elliot. “It’s still in the design approval stage and progress is going slower than I’d hoped. I think I’ll probably cry with joy when they’re done.”

Katie Symes leads the warm up at last year's event

Katie Symes leads the warm up at last year’s event

In previous years the event has seen an excellent turn out – but this year promises even more exciting activities with bouncy castles, a hot food van and stalls for Anthony Nolan and Northumbria Blood Bikes all taking part.

Last year’s popular Zumba enthusiast, Katie Symes, will also be making a return appearance. Another Bright Red fundraiser, ‘The Ride For Red’, which sees cyclists riding 55 miles for the charity, will be finishing at Paddy Freeman’s on the same day, promising an exciting run of events.

“I know only too well what amazing work they carry out at the Freeman Hospital. With such up to date technology and procedures it’s easy to see how patients travel from far and wide to receive treatment,” said Smith. “The Freeman Hospital really is second to none and is recognised worldwide for exactly that.”

There are still a few places left to join in the Fun Run and those interested in taking part can find out more information on their website.