I hope you will agree, however, that the uncertainty surrounding the rapid rise of the Omicron variant should not cast too long a shadow over what was starting to look like a return to ‘normality’ at Meningitis Now.
Recent weeks had seen us hold our first face-to-face support events – a successful and well-attended Family Day in Oldham, for example, and a moving Forever Weekend in Leicestershire. We’d also met up with many supporters and their families at our two popular Christmas concerts, in Gloucester Cathedral and London.
Getting back together
Getting back together as the Meningitis Now family is just one of the many things to celebrate from this sometimes difficult and frustrating year. We may have felt that the time wasn’t right to encourage people to meet in numbers and join us for our annual Five Valleys Walk, but there has still been much to be positive about.
We set out a bold ambition in our new five-year strategy, Making a difference, every day, launched this year. In this we set our plans to fight to defeat meningitis in the UK within a generation; to reach out to everyone who needs help, support and information, and to be recognised as a centre of expertise for aftercare and support.
And we continue to make a demonstrable difference to people’s lives through, for example, our popular Rebuilding Futures Fund. Being able to make financial awards to people and families as they rebuild their lives after meningitis is a fundamental part of what we do. Independent evaluation of this programme shows that 98 per cent of people said the support they received via the Rebuilding Futures Fund helped them, and 93 per cent said it had helped a lot.
There was similar positive feedback for Believe & Achieve, our programme for young people impacted by meningitis which aims to support them to reach their goals.
Grateful to individuals, organisations and trusts
Of course, we couldn’t deliver these programmes without funding, and we’re grateful to the many individuals, organisations and trusts who continue to put their faith in us and what we are working to achieve – individuals such as our Celebrity Ambassador Lisa Snowdon, for example. As well as fronting a BBC Lifeline Appeal for us in the Spring, Lisa competed on prime-time TV to appear on Celebrity Catchphrase. Her efforts helped to raise over £35,000 towards our work.
Or Gloucestershire Freemasons, who have granted us £45,000 towards our Rebuilding Futures Fund. Or the B&A Group, who are nearing their £100,000 target to fund research into meningitis. Or swim teachers Turtle Tots, who raised £20,000 from a week of pool-based activities, as well as valuable awareness. Or the teams of runners in the London Marathon, the Great North Run, or countless other events. There are too many individuals and organisations to mention here but we are truly grateful to each and every one of you who raise the vital funds to enable our work – thank you.
Pride of Britain
There were other highlights over the year – our Junior Ambassador Harmonie-Rose winning a prestigious and deserved Pride of Britain Award; our ground-breaking ‘Roundtable’ collaboration with charities, the NHS and public health authorities, and pharmaceutical companies to raise vital awareness of the signs and symptoms and the importance of vaccines to young people; and, the silver lining to the Covid cloud, that lockdown and social distancing contributed to a marked reduction in the incidence of bacterial meningitis.
We don’t know how this may change in the future and we recognise our work is far from over. Even as I write this, we are aware of a worrying number of cases of meningitis at UK universities.
Carry on the fight
We are therefore as determined as ever to carry on the fight and to deliver a future where no one in the UK loses their life to meningitis and all those affected get the support they need. We will continue to be here for those who need us following meningitis and we are – despite all our recent and current challenges – optimistic about what 2022 will bring for our charity.
On behalf of everyone at Meningitis Now, I’d like to wish you a peaceful and restful Christmas. Thank you for everything you’ve done to support our work during the year and we look forward to your continued support in 2022.
With all good wishes,