BTRC was founded in 2004 by Wendy Fulcher, who lost her husband John to a brain tumour in 2001, and Kevin O’Neill, the neurosurgeon who treated John at Charing Cross Hospital.
Here is Wendy’s story
The idea of starting a charity was really John’s. In the beginning: after his surgery, he wanted to make a contribution to Kevin O’Neill’s preferred charity as a token of our appreciation for everything he had done for us. With this in mind, when John lost his battle against the disease, I asked Kevin what that charity should be: he replied that donations “in lieu of flowers” at John’s funeral would be welcomed at Imperial College, where a fund could be started to contribute towards research.
It was then that Kevin explained his passion for the subject and his desire to undertake research into brain tumours. He explained, too, the serious under-funding of brain tumour research, not only in the UK but around the world, and how such research was the “poor relation” of cancer charities and grant-giving bodies. I was shocked to learn that there is no national charity dedicated to brain tumours.
When friends, family and colleagues contributed in excess of £10,000 to this seed fund, I realised that this could be just the beginning: with Kevin’s passion on the one hand, and the unique positioning of myself, our friends and colleagues in an event organisation and hospitality business, the seed of the idea to create our own charity, rather than relying on existing bodies, was sown. The more I learnt about the disease, the more I realised how many people are touched by it.
Selfishly, too, I needed to find a purpose to my life that had gone with the loss of my soul mate, my business partner and my husband. People asked if my motivation for doing this was to create a memorial for John – and to be honest, it isn’t: John will continue to live on in my mind and the mind of everyone who knew him, with or without this project, because he was who he was; but by doing this, I feel that perhaps some good may come from bad – and it may help Kevin and others who are able to tackle the terrible effects of the disease, and save others from the suffering that John and so many others have endured.
3 long years later in 2004, a lot of hard work went into setting up the infrastructure: I chose the Way Ahead charity as an ideal vehicle for the campaign: an existing charity, established by the Neurosciences Division of Imperial College London, it would provide the conduit for the fund-raising activities, as well as contribute to and complement the expertise of the scientific team that would undertake the research.
The real work began only then: to increase awareness of this terrible disease and the serious lack of funding for research; to raise funds through requests for grants, sponsorship and fund-raising events; and most importantly, the research itself by the scientific team that has come together to undertake this project.
April 2004 – the start of BTRC campaign