Colors: Blue Color

A team of 18 amateur cyclists, led by ex-England footballer and blood cancer survivor Geoff Thomas, have today completed the full 2021 Tour de France route, one week ahead of the professionals. They have cycled over 3400km and battle extreme heat, battering winds, driving rain, fog, crashes, gruelling climbs, illness and fatigue to raise funds for national blood cancer charity Cure Leukaemia. On Sunday 11th July the rode into Paris having surpassed their £1,000,000 target for the blood cancer charity.

Cure Leukaemia, which was announced as the first ever official Charity Partner of the Tour de France in the UK for the next three years, recorded a £1,700,000 fundraising shortfall in 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic and The Tour 21 team aims to help the charity address this shortfall in funding by completing all 3,400km of the world’s most famous and prestigious professional cycling event.

All funds raised by The Tour 21 team will be invested in the national Trials Acceleration Programme (TAP) which has been solely funded by Cure Leukaemia since January 2020. TAP is a network of specialist research nurses at 12 blood cancer centres located in the UK’s biggest cities and a facilitatory hub based at the Centre for Clinical Haematology in Birmingham’s Queen Elizabeth Hospital. This network enables accelerated setup and delivery of potentially life-saving blood cancer clinical trials to run giving patients from a UK catchment area of over 20 million people access to treatments not currently available through standard care.

Cure Leukaemia Patron Geoff Thomas was awarded an MBE in the Queen’s birthday honours just days before setting off for France. The former midfielder who captained Crystal Palace in the 1990 FA Cup Final, made over 450 club appearances for Palace, Wolves, Nottingham Forest, Crewe, Rochdale, Barnsley and Notts County and he was capped 9 times for England.

He retired in 2002 and was then diagnosed with chronic myeloid leukaemia in the summer of 2003 and given just 3 months to live. Thanks to treatment from Cure Leukaemia co-founder professor Charlie Craddock CBE and a transplant from his sister Kay, Geoff went into remission in early 2005 and then rode his first Tour de France challenge later that year.

Geoff has now completed the Tour de France on five occasions since beating blood cancer and is thrilled to have reached the £1,000,000 target: “Six weeks ago, it didn’t look like this event could take place and yet here we are in Paris having not only completed one of the toughest ever Tour de France routes but, more importantly, we have achieved our goal of raising £1,000,000 for the charity that helped save my life 18 years ago. I am immensely proud of the whole team including those who weren’t able to join us in France, the crew led by Andy Cook and everyone involved with the charity back in the UK. Without all of these people this event would not have happened.

“Raising £1,000,000 is hard and I would like to thank Farr Vintners and all our sponsors and everyone that has donated to get us to our target. We will enjoy this moment but there is still so much to do to ensure blood cancer is eradicated and I look forward to assembling our Tour 21 team for 2022 in the coming weeks. You never know, perhaps I do have one more Tour in me…. ”

Cure Leukaemia Chief Executive James McLaughlin said: “We suffered a £1,700,000 fundraising shortfall in 2020 and that is why it was so important that Geoff and The Tour 21 team could complete the event some of them have been training for since 2019. Ensuring this event could go ahead has been a herculean effort from so many people and I would like to thank everyone that has played a part in making The Tour 21 a success.

“To raise £1,000,000 is incredible and I want to thank all of the riders, their families, friends and colleagues because taking this event on requires enormous sacrifices long before the start. And big thank you as well to Andy Cook Cycling an all of the support crew who make the event run so smoothly, our fantastic photography and video teams and to Farr Vintners and all our sponsors.  Every penny they have raised and continue to raise will go towards ensuring our network of specialist research nurses across the UK can continue giving blood cancer patients hope by giving them access to clinical trials.

“Finally, I would like to pay tribute to Geoff for his tireless efforts on and off the bike to ensure this event was a success. His qualities as a captain in football have transferred seamlessly into fundraising and he continues to inspire and drive this charity forwards. There is much work still to be done but, for now, I hope Geoff and the team enjoyed a very well-deserved celebration in Paris.” Geoff and the team have been receiving messages of good luck throughout the event and received a message of congratulations from comedian, actor and Crystal Palace fan Eddie Izzard.

And they received a congratulations message from 7-Grand Tour winner Chris Froome OBE: https://youtu.be/AUMrmBniX_8

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The last year has been especially tough for young people who have struggled with home schooling and been without daily contact with friends and their wider support group. Yet with these challenges many young people have shown remarkable resilience and a number have been involved in helping others in the community who they view as having a harder time than them.

The West Midlands Lieutenancy aims to reward and celebrate people doing extraordinary things to support their community and each year individuals and charity volunteers are recognised through the established Honours system. Until last year there has not been a special award for young people going the “extra mile” to help others but it was decided to introduce one to acknowledge the outstanding contribution young people were making during the pandemic and to continue this award in future years to highlight the incredible things young people do.

The West Midlands Lieutenancy Young Active Citizen Award was launched last autumn and schools across the region were invited to share stories of pupils who they knew were contributing in amazing ways.

Nominations came from across the region with young people showing caring, dedication and passion to help others. As well as dedicating many hours of volunteering, many showed initiative and imagination in how they were helping others.

There were children helping promote and run food banks, delivering meals for those in need and challenges to raise money for the NHS. Others recorded themselves reading books to share with younger children, set up youth clubs and youth kitchens to prevent children going onto the streets.

There are inspirational stories of visits to recovery and rehabilitation centres, buying nail polish to paint elderly patient nails and even creating songs to sing to NHS staff.

Their efforts were amazing and each one will receive a signed certificate from the Lord-Lieutenant, John Crabtree OBE, who is delighted with the response. He said; “We knew young people were doing some fantastic activities to help others but the new award has provided an opportunity to find out how much is going on and how young people are contributing. It is hugely heart-warming to hear their stories and I am impressed with their ingenuity and the lengths they have gone to make such a positive contribution to help others.

“I am looking forward to meeting many of them later in the year and I am grateful for all the schools that helped highlight their endeavours to us.”  From all 38 nominations, fourteen young people have been chosen to meet the Lord-Lieutenant to receive their prize at a ceremony later in the year (when hopefully we can do this).

These young people include:

Harvey Kataria from St Michael’s School, Dudley who supported and promoted the Black Country foodbank with a “Kindness Is Powerful” campaign around National Kindness Day on November 13.

Emily and Oliver Lonsdale from Bristnall Hall Academy, Oldbury who coordinated their own food donation scheme and promoted it to support the Smethwick Foodbank.

Saimah Zulfiquar, a pupil at Edgbaston High School for Girls, who read and recorded a different book each week that could be accessed to the younger pupils in the school to support home schooling.

Jayme Nelson from Sandwell Community School who used the year to turn his life around and achieve some amazing results that include winning a Young Writer’s Prize for his short poem “Stuck in the Freezer”.

Grace Bullman from Finham Park School in Coventry used a wheel barrow to go round the streets locally and give books and teddies to children.

Aran Bansal from King Edward’s School, Edgbaston set up the “26 Challenge “ which aimed to raise money for the NHS to make up for money not being raised from marathons. He got his school on a 260km bike ride in May, on fitness campaigns with 26 press-ups and running 26 miles a week to raise a staggering £8,100 for the NHS charity!

Liam Ubalde from Pines Special School in Erdington for supporting his parents when both were unwell and keeping their spirits up.

Brock Daffern of Heath School, Wolverhampton who used his own 3D printer to produce headbands for protective visors before distributing them to the NHS.

Ashley Copson of Pool Hayes Academy in Willenhall volunteered for Walsall Outreach and delivered hampers, fish and chips to the elderly, vulnerable and homeless every week.

J-Jay and Maison Whiston from Ninestiles, an Academy in Acocks Green volunteered for the Fox Hollies Forum, a community group that represents 4,000 local residents. They set up a Youth Kitchen and Youth Club, hoping to keep children like them from hanging around the streets, or sitting at home attached to a phone or games console.

Emma Wood and Chelsea Jade Grant from St Michaels, Dudley, who played a major role in improving a local park and being advocates for young people in the community.

The above will all receive a certificate and prize from the Lord-Lieutenant in the coming year and all nominations will be receiving certificates of recognition signed by the Lord-Lieutenant.

The West Midlands Lieutenancy will be contacting schools again this year to ask them to help identify young active citizens. If you know of someone aged between 11-18 years deserving recognition for going the “extra mile” to help their community please email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

Following an extremely difficult time for everybody, especially charities, one erstwhile charity fundraiser took on his most difficult challenge to date when he played 4 rounds of golf a day for 5 straight days (June 15-19) whilst playing around 2000 golf shots and walking 130 miles, which took over 16 hours-a-day.

The painful 5-day stint saw Ramesh Parmar go through with a great sense of achievement, that he said “was well worth the pain.

“I have always wanted to carry on helping people in need after my dad passed away”, he said, “as he was a very caring and charitable man who always helped people, one way or another. He always found time to help.

“I raised money for some wonderful charities like Help Harry Help Others because they are a remarkable and caring charity.”

He played 16 rounds of golf in 2016 to raise £17,800 - some of which saw 57 HHHO cancer centre users taken on a trip to London’s West End to see the smash-hit show Mamma Mia, as well as taking a further 20 cancer centre users for a night out for the Birmingham Hippodrome’s Mama Mia production.

Ramesh was joined by 17 members and friends of the Enville Golf Club, in 2018, to play 18 holes of golf – after walking for 18 miles – raising £21,340 for Help Harry Help Others.

“Playing the rounds of golf raised £17,800, and it was a privileged to have taken 57 HHHO cancer centre users on a trip to London to see the West end Show Mamma Mia. We also had a night out to the Hippodrome to see the same show for another 20 cancer centre users.”

Following a difficult 2020, an excited Ramesh is more than making-up by continuing to help charities who have struggled through.

“This time around I have a team to help me get through this challenge,” he said, “and I would like to thank them all for their support.” 79% of the £20,000 target was raised, immediately after the challenge, by 186 supporters, raising a staggering £15,940.

 

King G Mall Dhol Blasters has been included by World Book of Records Gold Edition as the world's first, oldest and biggest male/female combo Dhol team

Now going for over 30-years, founder and leader of the Birmingham-based outfit, Gurcharan Mall B.E.M., CEO, along with his team, was acknowledged with the world record certificate of inclusion, which was presented by Shri Virendra Sharma, the Labour Member of Parliament for Southall, in England.

Destined to protect, develop and keep the Punjabi culture strong and alive, King G Mall’s The Dhol Blasters (True Roots and Colours of Punjab) take pride in their ethnic music and culture, which they want to share with the rest of t h e w o r l d.

T h e organisation has released more than nine albums, for some they have received Platinum and Gold discs. They have also won many awards. for performances in the UK, America, India, Austria, Belgium, Denmark, France, Norway, Germany, Holland, Italy, Sweden, Switzerland, Spain and Malaysia. Amongst their array of recognitions include the ‘Lifetime Contribution to Music Award’ at The Phoenix Gala Awards and the International Performing Artist “PRIDE of Punjab Award.

On being recognized by honour, King G Mall Dhol Blasters congratulated by Shri Virendra Sharma, Dr Diwakar Sukul (Chair of the World Book of Records, London), Shri Santosh Shukla (President, World Book of Records) and other dignitaries from international scenario.

The team at the iconic Birmingham Back to Backs has won the prestigious Dementia Hero Award in the category ‘Dementia Friendly Business’.

The winners were announced at a virtual awards ceremony on Thursday 20 May, which were hosted by Alzheimer’s Society supporter TV presenter, writer and journalist, Richard Madeley. The Dementia Hero Awards took place during Dementia Action Week, which runs from the 17-23 May.

The Birmingham Back to Backs’ Reminiscence team was one of three finalists in their category, ‘Dementia Friendly Business – Small and Medium Category’. This award category recognised organisations that have gone over and above to become dementia-friendly, for their customers and employees. The category was split by large organisation (over 250 staff) and small/medium organisation (up to 249 staff). The award winner was announced by TV presenter and journalist, Angela Rippon CBE.

The awards, which are sponsored by Tunstall Healthcare, took place virtually due to the coronavirus pandemic and showcased the stories of people doing outstanding things during the pandemic – Alzheimer’s Society’s dementia heroes.

The dedicated Reminiscence team at the Birmingham Back to Backs, located in the city centre on Hurst Street, have been working with the Birmingham and Solihull Mental Health Foundation Trust to make a meaningful difference for people with dementia and their families.

Claire Pitt, a Reminiscence team volunteer at the Birmingham Back to Backs, said: “We were so pleased to be nominated and so surprised to have been shortlisted as a finalist, but to have actually won the award is fantastic. Everyone in the team has worked so hard and we all enjoy doing what we do for people with dementia.

“Before lockdown we ran meet up sessions for people with dementia and their carers to come along and visit. We would sit in the Back to Back living rooms and we set the tables up and had tea. Each session had a theme, such as childhood, and another time we spoke about food and cookery. The group would reminisce about their childhood or about cooking when they were younger, and we had historical objects from that time-period on display.

“The best thing about the sessions is the way you see people with dementia light up in front of you – they sit up and they remember something. When they talk about themselves and their memories, they are the expert and it’s so wonderful to see. Carers have told us that after the sessions, the people with dementia would leave and talk about the session at home or even a week later.

“Since the pandemic hit, we have been running the sessions on Zoom every other week and showing reminiscence images, such as cooking utensils, old toys, and we have a show and tell slot where people with dementia show an object on camera and talk about what it means to them.

“It’s such a great thing to do and it’s wonderful to see how it helps people. There are so many people affected by dementia, and their carers too, who need support, and this number is growing as our population ages, so it’s so important to help and involve them. Society as a whole needs to become more dementia friendly.”

Alzheimer’s Society Area Manager for Midlands Central, Janice Le Tellier, said: “Throughout the pandemic so many individuals, groups and organisations have gone above and beyond to support people affected by dementia. This year’s Alzheimer’s Society’s Dementia Hero Awards provided the perfect opportunity to celebrate the achievements of these unsung heroes.

“It’s been so inspiring to hear the stories of those dedicated to caring for people with dementia, finding innovative solutions in research, and the campaigners and media fighting for the rights of people living with dementia. They are all making a difference.

“We are delighted that the Reminiscence team at the Birmingham Back to Backs has won the Dementia Hero Awards for Dementia Friendly Business.

“The past year has been tough for all of us. But imagine how much worse it would have been if you couldn’t understand why it was happening: why you no longer saw your loved ones; why your carers stopped visiting or why they wore masks. Tragically, this was the reality for tens of thousands of people living with dementia in the UK.

“Since the pandemic began, Alzheimer’s Society support services have been used 3.7 million times, showing that people affected by dementia need us now more than ever.”

Eight-year-old Josh Purkis from Birmingham has cut his waist length hair in support of two charities that helped his family when his little sister was taken seriously ill with a brain tumour.

Josh had been growing his hair since 2019 when his sister Verity lost hers from having chemotherapy. He has so far raised over £1,916 for Ronald McDonald House Charities UK and is donating his luscious locks to The Little Princess Trust.

The Purkis family were on holiday on the Isle of Wight when Josh’s sister became poorly and was transferred to Southampton Children’s hospital. She was diagnosed with a brain tumour and immediately operated on. The family, 130 miles from their home in Birmingham, were given a room in Ronald McDonald House Southampton so they could be close to Verity during her treatment. The 52-bedroom House, situated within minutes’ walk of the hospital wards, kept the family together during a critical time.

Of their support for Ronald McDonald House Charities UK, Abi, Josh’s mum, said:

‘When Verity was taken ill on holiday in the Isle of Wight she had to be transferred to Southampton hospital where she underwent two brain surgeries to remove as much of her tumour as possible. Through the Ronald McDonald House Southampton we were given a room in the House next to the hospital.  This meant that Josh, his brother Ben, and their Dad were able to visit Verity and me during her stay, and also gave me a place to rest and recuperate when Verity was being looked after by family or in surgery.

“The use of this room and access to the facilities at the Ronald McDonald House meant we could still see each other and be together as a family at such a difficult time, especially as we were all still in shock and grieving the death of my eldest sister Liz. We have always been so grateful to Ronald McDonald House Charities UK, Josh has decided he wants to donate any money he raises from cutting his hair, as a way of saying a huge thank you to them.”

Ronald McDonald House Charities UK has twelve Houses across the UK situated in or near hospital grounds to enable seriously ill children to have their families close by when they are undergoing treatment and to maintain a degree of normal family life.