Choosing a charity

Watching the London Marathon this morning, with several good friends running in it, is inspiring me yet again. But it also brings up that nagging thought that I need to do something about sponsorship. Now I HATE the idea of asking people money for anything, even sponsorship, but it has to be done. One of the main reasons I’m climbing Kili in the first place is to raise money for a charity close to my heart and in some way to give something back to society. It’s the main reason I’ve declined to do many charity events in the past – I’d love to do them but I hate the idea of raising money. Sometimes I just do them and donate the money myself. I’ve been thinking about doing the Spire-to-Spire walk in September for the Classic FM charity MusicMakers. It would be good training, it’s interesting (and appeals since I spent a lot of my childhood singing in Salisbury Cathedral, and have also sung in Winchester Cathedral a few times). But I don’t want to ruin my chances of getting sponsorship for Kili by also asking people for money for that! And one of the conditions of doing it is that you have to raise a certain amount of money.

One of the things that’s been inspiring me the most recently is the efforts of Exodus’ very own Paul Goldstein, who’s been lugging a 9 foot high tiger not only up Kili, but also in two marathons. Certainly one way to get people’s attention! It looks as if the tiger had a nice sleep on the flight too.

 Anyway, back to the point. The main reason I’m climbing Kili is because I want to give something back to some of the people who’ve helped me and my family over the years. The trouble is, there are so many, and it’s taken a lot of thought to decide which charity I want to raise money for. The shortlist came down to the following (in no particular order):
Diabetes UK. I’ve been a life member since 1980, and back then, they were the only contact I had with anything diabetes-related. I remember reading their newsppaper (before it became a magazine) avidly under the bedclothes at night when I was supposed to be asleep. It made me realise that I wasn’t alone with this disease. Even though my dad had had diabetes most of his life (and all of mine), it wasn’t something we talked about in the family.
JDRF (Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation). I only discovered this charity much later, when a friend told me about them. Contrary to Diabetes UK, which caters very much for the masses, and whose magazine and advice are largely written in words of one syllable, JDRF focuses primarily on research, and funds many great research programmes, while keeping those who are interested up to date with this, rather than Diabetes UK’s focus on things like recipes and easy guides.
Insulin Pumpers. Along with one of my closest friends, John Neale (who sadly died of brain cancer a few years ago), I set up the UK branch of the US charity Insulin Pumpers around 15 years ago, and still run the website, mailing list and everything else on the UK side. Getting an insulin pump (thanks to John) was the best thing I ever did, and it undoubtedly saved me from going totally blind and losing my kidneys. Insulin Pumpers is a fantastic source of support and advice about pumps, and I owe it a lot.
RNIB. When I lost most of my sight 15 years ago, RNIB were another godsend, providing so much help, information and support.
Guide Dogs for the Blind. When I was told that I would lose all my sight, I investigated the possibility of a guide dog, and even went through the assessment programme. Although I’m not really a dog lover (I’d much rather have a guide cat!) I have friends with guide dogs and I can see how much they can transform a blind person’s life. It turned out that for various reasons, a guide dog wasn’t for me right now, but it may be something I’ll reconsider in the future.
Limbless Association. I hope I’ll never need their help, but it’s quite possible I will one day. More importantly, however, this brings me to one of the other main reasons for climbing Kili. In the last 18 months my father, a type 1 diabetic for nearly 60 years, lost both his legs as a result of diabetes complications, and may face further amputation. He has always taught me by example that you shouldn’t let diabetes get in the way of doing whatever you want to do. He may not have climbed Kili, but he’s done plenty of amazing things and travelled all over the world, mostly at a time when diabetes management was far more rudimentary than it is now. His courage and determination to carry on as normal a life as possible after double amputation is absolutely inspirational. Another very good friend (and former dance partner) also lost a leg to cancer a few years ago, and similarly, his determination and courage inspired me greatly at the time when I had just lost a lot of my sight and was struggling to come to terms with it. Apparently we were mutual sources of inspiration to each other in this respect.

So there we go. So many charities, but I don’t think it’s fair to support more than one. So I’m going for the charity that for me somehow encompasses everything. The more research we do into the causes, preventions and cures for diabetes, the less we’ll have to worry about blindness and amputations. So I shall be raising money for the JDRF. Not just because their mascot is Pingu.

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