21st October 2016

Julie McDonnell Strikes Back Against Cancer – With a Little Help from her Friends

Bell ringing and the bell ringing community has an amazing ability to change lives for the positive.  Coming up to Christmas it is a nice time to reflect on how we are such a close-knit and caring group, as witnessed by the support Julie McDonnell has received from bell ringers around the world.

Julie was diagnosed with Chronic Myeloid Leukaemia in June 2015, having just turned 48.  This was her third time to have leukaemia, but this time she says she really felt she would die, so there was a rushed marriage to Andrew on the 17th of July on the advice of the specialists.  In December of that year Julie was told she was terminally ill and was in dire need of a stem cell transplant.  Coming up to Christmas, with a daughter who lives some way away, this was a very hard time indeed for Julie and her family.

A donor was found in the nick of time however, and as Julie was in a critical condition she had the transplant within 48 hours.  Six days after the transplant Julie rang in a peal at Bexhill to raise awareness – and we are talking about a woman who as of today has only been ringing about two years!   Since then Julie engaged people’s imaginations around the world with a walking and ringing event June 25th 2016, which raised further awareness and started to secure sponsors who were interested in supporting Julie further, through ringing, to raise money and awareness initially for the Anthony Nolan Trust https://www.anthonynolan.org/ and also https://www.dkms.org.uk/en .  Tim Attride wrote a new method variation which was named Julie McDonnell Bob Doubles, and the real challenge began: to ring 100 quarter peals of this variation by December 25th, for some serious sponsorship.  Further methods have been written, eg Julie McDonnell Bob Triples by Daniel Brady, further targets have been given, and the latest figure of money raised is close to £1m.

Every 14 minutes in the UK someone is diagnosed with blood cancer, and 38 people die of it every day.  Because there are 137 different types of leukaemia, there is not necessarily the same level of funding for research from big pharmaceuticals as for other cancers, and charity-funded research is critical.  Through such funding the survival rate for children with Acute Lymphoblastic Leukaemia has become 90%, whereas in the past it was measured in just weeks and months.  Julie tells us that a second stem cell transplant is highly likely to save a child’s life (she has never met anyone who did not need the second transplant: “it’s like a two-part procedure”), so that is where funds are now also directed – because the NHS in England, unlike the rest of the UK, will not fund a second transplant.

QPs of relevant methods now stand at 134 (17.10.16), with a new target of 200 by Christmas Day (the first 100 was sponsored for £10k; the second is for £60k).  If the target is met and linked to the event on Bellboard, the total of £70k will be secured, as well as more each time Julie herself rings (£100 if she rings, £450 if she rings inside, and £950 if she conducts a QP).  Striking Back is also pledged £10k if there are QPs in all the Sussex Association towers and/or the whole alphabet in terms of towers.  At the time of writing Julie has trebled to JM Doubles 13 times, rung inside 30 times, tenored once and conducted once.  Some of Julie’s friends have similarly high ‘scores’, and others are helping to meet the alphabet target with rare letters, or just ringing as many as they can.  The sponsors have really taken to this initiative, which is in turn raising the awareness of bell ringing in a positive way in the public sphere.

If you would like to find out more, go to http://juliedmcdonnell.wixsite.com/sbabc as well as the direct links to the charities involved above.

We appreciate that not every charitable cause will appeal to everyone, but we believe that this particular initiative, by a bell ringer, for bell ringers, is something of general interest to the ringing community, hence our raising awareness of it.

NB: all data is likely to be well out of date by the time you read this (!), so check on Bellboard for the score so far by searching in the method box ‘Julie McDonnell’, as well as the website which will be updated periodically.

CCCBR Public Relations Committee

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