David Fisher: Community’s help is vital to charity’s work

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We rely on the fantastic support we receive from the local community, with individuals, groups, companies and schools fundraising for specialist equipment, services and training above and beyond the provision of the NHS.

In 2013 Harrogate Lions Club joined us to raise £80,000 to purchase a new eye laser for Harrogate District Hospital. With a membership of just 19, the club knew it wasn’t going to be easy so set up a plan and set the wheels in motion. Harrogate Eye Laser Project (HELP) was established.

The Lions motto is ‘we serve’ and two of their main programs include sight conservation and diabetes awareness. With the lasers primarily used to prevent blindness caused by diabetes, and another for glaucoma, the fit was perfect, and just the motivation the group needed to serve the local hospital, and in turn, the local community.

It took just ten months for the group to raise the £80,000 needed, and it was achieved by engaging with the entire community. The club received amazing support for their fundraising events such as sponsored walks, race nights, coffee morning, and from local groups like Beckwith Saints Junior football team, Tewit Youth Band and Leeds Grammar School. They also received support from other Lions Clubs from Knaresborough to Chichester, alongside a wide range of fundraising events organised by the Lions.

Thanks to the commitment and desire of the Lions, Harrogate now has two new lasers improving outcomes for patients, and reducing the incidence of blindness caused by diabetes. Gavin Walters, consultant ophthalmic surgeon, has been delighted with the outcomes: “The two lasers we were able to buy have been of great benefit to patients. Diabetic patients, requiring treatment to save their sight, have been able to have much quicker treatment with less discomort. We have also been able to offer new laser treatment for glaucoma which has meant better control of the eye pressure, which is important in preventing vision loss.”

The most successful fundraising partnerships develop when there is a real connection with those fundraising and what they are fundraising for. The Lions focus on sight loss prevention and diabetes made this the perfect project, and in many of our fundraising partnerships, there is a link either through a personal connection or in a shared goal. Harrogate Hospital and Community Charity would like to say a huge thank you to Harrogate Lions for their fantastic support, not only with the HELP project, but for their continued support of the hospital through various ongoing activities such as newspaper deliveries to patients at the weekends, their message in a bottle scheme, and in the past re-vamped the play area on our children’s ward.

Three years on from the purchase of the eye lasers, the ophthalmology department at Harrogate and District NHS Trust are busy fundraising again as explained by Gavin Walters: “Our latest fundraiser is for a RetCam which will help with the management of blinding diseases in babies and children. With the RetCam we will be able to monitor the progress of the retina of premature babies spotting when treatment will be needed to prevent lifelong blindness. It will also allow us to record the state of children’s eyes in the very sad cases of suspected non-accidental injury.”

Any groups who would like to take on our ophthalmology department’s latest challenge can email David.fisher@hdft.nhs.uk or call 01423 555641.