Article first published in the Saddleworth Independent, 24/1/2017. For this article, I interviewed the students who had raised the money, and Karen Johnson, chairwoman of the GEM Appeal charity.
KIND-HEARTED PUPILS at Saddleworth School have raised more than £1,600 for the GEM Appeal, after being inspired by the story of the charity’s founder.
Head Boy Joe Wheeler and Head Girl Katie Ball presented a cheque for £1655.50 to charity representatives including founder and chairwoman Karen Johnson last month.
The money was raised from pupils’ cake sales, a non-uniform day, and a silent auction at the school in aid of the charity, which fundraises to support research and treatment for a range of genetic disorders.
It will go towards funding a tandem mass spectrometry machine at the Willink Unit, Royal Manchester Children’s Hospital, to screen newborn babies for treatable genetic diseases. The appeal has currently raised £207,000 of a £250,000 target.
Pupils plan to raise more money with an online auction, including signed shirts and photographs from sports stars including the England Rugby Union team, Kevin Sinfield, Sam Burgess, Wayne Rooney and Sir Alex Ferguson.
Head boy Joe said: “We decided to donate the money to the GEM Appeal after our teacher Mr Watson suggested the charity.
“Mr Watson has close connections to the GEM Appeal, and after Karen Johnson came in to talk to us, we really wanted to help.”
Head girl Katie added: “It’s really inspiring to hear what the GEM Appeal does. Hopefully we’ve raised awareness because that’s really important to their work. In the future we’d both like to help the charity again.”
Karen Johnson, chairwoman of the GEM Appeal said: “This is a brilliant effort by Saddleworth School and it’s really overwhelming to be here.
“I came into the school and spoke to the pupils, and their money will make a massive difference.”
Karen founded the GEM Appeal in 1994 after her two boys Simon and Mike were diagnosed with the untreatable Hunters Disease.
Sadly, Simon and Mike died aged 12, but the £2.9million that the GEM Appeal has raised has helped many other babies with a range of genetic disorders.
Due to the research done and treatment becoming available, children and young people diagnosed with these terrible life limiting disorders now have hope and treatment available, but there is currently no cure.
The GEM Appeal organises anything from small fundraising events to large charity balls which can raise between £20,000 and £30,000. The charity is also supported by a number of celebrities including Denise Welch, Tim Healy and Trisha Penrose.
However Karen insists that donations from groups like Saddleworth School make the real difference.
She explained: “Without fundraising efforts like this, there would be no future for babies born with genetic disorders. They really help us continue fighting.”
Last November, Karen was recognised for her work with a Pride of Britain award. She said: “That was an amazing honour, and I even got to meet Take That!”