Freemasons of Bedfordshire recently presented 49 different charities with donations totalling £72,061
Lodge members from across Bedfordshire raised the funds over the past 12 months and gave it to charities and good causes such as Diabetes UK, Cancer Research UK, Bedfordshire Games, Keech Hospice Care, Help for Heroes, Autism Bedfordshire, Alzheimer's UK, Luton and Dunstable Hospital, Bedford Hospital, Midshires Search and Rescue Organisation, Bedfordshire Scouts and Sue Ryder.
The event was held on 26th February at the Luton Masonic Centre with around 160 people in attendance. Each of the charities were presented with their cheques by the representatives from the supporting lodges or the Provincial Grand Master of the Province of Bedfordshire, Michael Sawyer, who said: 'All the money that we raise comes from Freemasons themselves and it gives them great pleasure to be able to contribute to these charities and the wonderful work that they do.'
Each charity representative present at the event responded with expressions of their gratitude and how important the Bedfordshire Freemasons donations are in helping them reach their targets for support.
Blood test for Alzheimer’s
The expert research team, led by Professor Simon Lovestone at the University of Oxford, want to tackle the disease by developing a simple blood test. The MSF provided the donation following a poll of local masons who nominated the charity to receive a grant from the Silver Jubilee Research Fund. Alzheimer’s Research UK is one of 13 medical research charities awarded an MSF grant last year at a total cost of £1.125 million.
The donation was presented to Professor Lovestone by Oxfordshire PGM James Hilditch in October at the Nuffield Department of Medicine Research Building in Oxford.
From Alzheimer’s and diabetes to prosthetic limbs, local medical research projects have been chosen by Freemasons across the UK to receive grants of up to £100,000. Peter Watts finds out how the voting worked
In 2015, the Masonic Samaritan Fund (MSF) decided to mark its 25th anniversary with an unprecedented exercise. It created the Silver Jubilee Research Fund, worth £1 million, to distribute to medical research charities and then invited masons across the UK to vote for the organisations they felt should receive a share of the funds. Charities were divided regionally so Freemasons could choose from those based locally to them.
‘It’s the first time any of the masonic charities have been proactive in this way,’ says John McCrohan, Grants Director and Deputy Chief Executive of the MSF. ‘We are conscious of the support we get from the masonic brethren and wanted to get them more actively involved in choosing who we would offer support to.’
Such was the success of the project that in September 2015 the MSF announced that following votes from more than 5,000 Freemasons in 10 regional areas, 13 charities from across the UK would receive a combined £1.13 million. With masons from all over England and Wales allowed to vote, charities receiving grants included Alzheimer’s Research UK in Oxford, Tenovus Cancer Care in Cardiff and Yorkshire Cancer Research in Sheffield. ‘It really helped people to get engaged because it was happening on their doorstep, so was something they could have a view on,’ says McCrohan of the voting process.
Causes close to home
George Royle, Provincial Grand Almoner in South Wales, where Tenovus Cancer Care has been awarded £89,000, echoes McCrohan’s sentiments. ‘We liked the fact members could vote, and were behind the process from the start. Tenovus is a household name in Wales and has been going since 1943 when 10 businessmen set it up in order to fund projects across the local area,’ he says of the charity, which will use its grant to research immunotherapy treatment.
‘It is based in Cardiff but has mobile units that save a lot of travelling for people who live in the Valleys.’
Every charity that applied for funding had to go into detail about the research it was planning, which was then analysed by the MSF board of experts.
‘We began by approaching every charity that was a member of the Association of Medical Research Charities (AMRC), which is around 130 charities,’ says McCrohan. ‘We wrote to each one, inviting them to apply and letting them know we were looking to support high-quality medical research. That meant they already met a very high standard in terms of peer review and evaluation.’
Just over 60 charities applied, and the MSF panel shortlisted 30 for the ballot, to be voted on by Freemasons. As well as drawing applications from a range of areas – from combating cancer and heart disease to designing prosthetic limbs – the MSF wanted to involve charities from across the country. ‘That was the unknown,’ says McCrohan. ‘We could have received all our applications from Oxford and London, two of the established centres of excellence, but we got applications from far and wide – Bristol, Southampton, Newcastle, Manchester, Liverpool and Cardiff. We had enough numbers to break it up regionally, which meant masons could vote for charities that were either based locally or had research taking place in their region.’
The power of engagement
McCrohan was pleased at the way masons responded to the initiative, particularly as the entire process took place electronically, via email, newsletters and links to websites where masons could read about how the charities intended to use the grants. ‘We wanted to challenge the perception that because Freemasons are an older generation, they might not engage with online information,’ he says.
The Jubilee fund has also raised awareness of the work that the MSF undertakes to help masons and non-masons alike. ‘Our non-masonic medical research complements the support that we give to individual masons with their health and care needs,’ says McCrohan. ‘The hope is that our support of medical research will benefit the whole of society and not just the masonic community.’
Allan Peates is Provincial Grand Almoner for Oxfordshire, where a grant of £100,000 has been awarded to Alzheimer’s Research UK. He points out how the Jubilee fund is a chance for the MSF to talk publicly about its work. ‘The MSF does a brilliant job with individual masons and their families, but a lot is unseen because people don’t always like to admit they received a grant,’ he says. ‘If you need a procedure the MSF will fund it, but the recipient won’t necessarily want people to know where the money came from.’
Allan is delighted that Alzheimer’s Research UK came top of the Jubilee poll in his region. ‘We had 62 per cent of people in our area vote for the Alzheimer’s research project,’ he says. ‘Alzheimer’s has to be at the top of our priorities, along with prostate cancer, and the charity is going to use the money to try and develop a blood test for early detection.’
As a result of the Jubilee fund, the MSF has raised its profile among the medical research community, and McCrohan hopes this will bring rewards further down the line. ‘We’ve become more aware of the research that is going on and more connected to that community. We want to be well known within the funding sector so people can come to us.’
Above all though, McCrohan hopes that masons will get involved in similar enterprises. ‘We are privileged to be entrusted with their funds and it’s only right we consult them on how they are distributed. It’s a model we’d like to repeat in the future. There are a lot of Freemasons who will never come to Great Queen Street in London, so their experience of Freemasonry is a very local one. This allows them to contribute to the way the charities based in London operate. Hopefully that’s been a positive experience.’
Oxfordshire Freemasons have presented a Masonic Samaritan Fund (MSF) grant of £100,000 to Alzheimer’s Research UK to help them fund pioneering research into new tools for dementia diagnosis.
Alzheimer’s is the leading cause of dementia in the UK, with half a million people living with the disease. However, the early stages of memory loss can often be attributed to a range of different factors, making an accurate and timely diagnosis a huge challenge. This means people don’t receive the correct support and miss out on opportunities to take part in clinical research.
The expert research team, led by Professor Simon Lovestone at the University of Oxford, want to tackle this by developing a simple blood test for Alzheimer’s disease.
The MSF provided the £100,000 donation following a poll of local Freemasons who nominated the Charity to receive a grant from the Silver Jubilee Research Fund. Alzheimer’s Research UK is one of 13 medical research charities to be awarded a grant by the MSF this year at a total cost of £1.125million.
The donation was presented to Professor Simon Lovestone by the Provincial Grand Master for the Province of Oxfordshire, James Hilditch, on 15th October at the Nuffield Department of Medicine Research Building, Old Road Campus.
Speaking on behalf of local Freemasons, James Hilditch said: “Alzheimer’s is a disease that affects so many of us, family, friends and colleagues. Over 550 Freemasons from around the Oxfordshire area nominated Alzheimer’s Research UK to receive a grant and we are very proud to be able to demonstrate our support for the fight against dementia.”
The first three years of Professor Simon Lovestone’s project have been incredibly successful, with the discovery of a protein ‘fingerprint’ in blood that could predict whether someone with mild memory problems will go on to develop Alzheimer’s. To date, the Freemasons’ charities have provided over £560,000 to Alzheimer’s Research UK.
Hilary Evans, Chief Executive of Alzheimer’s Research UK, said:
“This incredibly generous gift has the power to improve clinical trials for Alzheimer’s disease. We know that many of the drug trials that have taken place so far – and failed – have been carried out in people in the later stages of Alzheimer’s. But it is likely that for new drugs to be effective, they’ll have to be given much earlier in the disease course. A simple blood test to help predict whether people with mild memory problems will go on to develop Alzheimer’s has huge potential to ensure people receive the right drugs at the right time.”
Making new connections
Scientists hope the knowledge gained from vital research will offer new clues for the treatment of Alzheimer’s
Every four seconds, there is a new case of dementia in the world. The condition is caused when the brain is damaged by diseases such as Alzheimer’s, which affects half a million people in the UK. The symptoms of Alzheimer’s vary but typically include memory loss, confusion, disorientation, and mood and behavioural problems.
As Alzheimer’s progresses it can alter a person’s life entirely, robbing them of their memories and independence, causing them to require constant support. There are currently no treatments that slow or halt progression of the disease – something that it is hoped can be changed through research.
The Grand Charity and the MSF recently joined forces to provide a £175,000 donation to Alzheimer’s Research UK, to help fund efforts to identify new targets for treating the disease. This research is taking place at the University of Cambridge and seeks to understand the chain of events occurring at the onset of the disease. Over the past 30 years, the central masonic charities have donated £855,000 towards dementia research, while also caring for people living with the disease.
One of the difficulties researchers face is finding participants for studies; at the same time, many members of the public are looking for studies to take part in, but don’t know where to find them. A national service, Join Dementia Research, tackles the problem by connecting participants with researchers, helping to recruit the right volunteers for the right study. The service is open to all – those with dementia, their carers and anyone who wants to improve the lives of people living with the condition.
If you are interested in helping to find a cure for dementia, the National Institute for Health Research is currently inviting people to take part in clinical research studies. To find out more, please visit www.joindementiaresearch.nihr.ac.uk
The silver shortlist
To mark the 25th anniversary of the Masonic Samaritan Fund (MSF), the trustees are making available £1 million in support of medical and care research projects
The MSF is planning to award grants of up to £100,000 in 10 regions across England and Wales. Its Silver Jubilee Research Fund originally received 62 grant applications, seeking nearly £9 million in support. However, with only £1 million available through the fund, the charity will need to make some difficult decisions.
Since 2011, the MSF has supported research projects that aim to improve the prevention, detection, diagnosis, treatment and care available for illnesses and disabilities that affect masonic families and the wider community. Nearly £2 million has been awarded to large and small research organisations such as Breakthrough Breast Cancer, Carers UK and the A-T Society.
Several research projects funded by the MSF have achieved significant success in their field. A £181,000 grant awarded to Alzheimer’s Research UK has helped to develop a new blood test that, it is hoped, will predict whether someone with early memory problems will develop Alzheimer’s within a year. Two grants totalling £75,000 awarded to RAFT (the Restoration of Appearance and Function Trust) have helped to develop a working prototype of a bionic arm fit for human trials, in a bid to compensate for the loss of a limb. A grant of £34,000, presented to Prostate Cancer UK, has helped Dr Hayley Whitaker and her team to identify that the presence of a specific protein can distinguish prostate cancers that are aggressive from those that may never seriously harm the patient.
For further details about the Silver Jubilee Research Fund and the research studies shortlisted for a grant in your Province, please visit www.msfund.org.uk/research
Consulting for consolidation
The 2015 MSF members’ meeting was hosted at Freemasons’ Hall in March and marked the start of the formal process of consultation with the charity’s members regarding the proposal to consolidate the four central masonic charities.
The proposed consolidation seeks to ensure that the full range of support currently provided by the central masonic charities will continue to be available to all eligible applicants and will be delivered in the most cost-effective manner.
Throughout the transition process and beyond, health and care grants will be accessible for eligible beneficiaries seeking treatment, care and support without undue delay or expense.
Full details of the information provided by the MSF president and CEO are available at www.msfund.org.uk/news.php
The consultation will conclude at the next members’ meeting on 29 October 2015. For further information on the consolidation of the charities, see www.masoniccharities.org.uk/review
With half a million people in the UK living with Alzheimer’s, the Masonic Samaritan Fund and The Freemasons’ Grand Charity have been united in their desire to support groundbreaking research that will help identify new targets for treating the disease, with a staggering donation of £175,000 to Alzheimer’s Research UK.
The expert research team, led by Prof Clemens Kaminski at the University of Cambridge, want to understand the chain of events that occur right at the beginning of the onset of the disease. The scientists hope the knowledge gained from this vital research will offer new clues for treatment.
Freemasons from the Provincial Grand Lodge of Cambridgeshire presented the generous donation at a cheque presentation in Professor Kaminski’s laboratory.
Ian Wilson, Director of Fundraising at Alzheimer’s Research UK who accepted the £175,000 donation said: “We are delighted that The Freemasons’ Grand Charity and the Masonic Samaritan Fund have chosen to support Alzheimer’s Research UK’s fight to defeat dementia.
“Research holds the answers to find ways to prevent, diagnose and treat Alzheimer’s and other forms of dementia, but it is massively underfunded. This huge contribution will fund two years of pioneering research at the University of Cambridge. As an independent charity, Alzheimer’s Research UK is completely reliant on the generosity of donors and this marvellous donation will take us all closer to a world free of dementia.”
Alzheimer’s disease, which affects memory and thinking, is characterised by the build-up of two toxic proteins – amyloid and tau. These protein clumps cause damage to nerve cells and lead to the symptoms experienced by those living with Alzheimer’s. But it is still not fully understood how these clumps of protein inflict damage on nerve cells. This generous support from the two Masonic charities will help Dr Kaminski and his team quite literally shine a light on the initial stages of Alzheimer’s.
Peter Sutton, Provincial Information Officer for Cambridgeshire Freemasons, said: “We are delighted to support Alzheimer’s Research UK in its mission to undertake pioneering research that brings us closer to a treatment for this cruel disease.
“Alzheimer’s is a disease that touches so many of us, family, friends and colleagues. All Cambridgeshire Freemasons look forward to following the progress of Professor Kaminski and his team as they strive to understand the fundamental basics underlying Alzheimer’s disease. Freemasons throughout the country are proud to be part of the fight against dementia.”
Research funded by the Masonic Samaritan Fund has successfully developed a blood test that could predict whether someone with early memory problems will develop Alzheimer’s within a year
The MSF awarded £181,723 to Alzheimer’s Research UK in 2011 to fully fund the first two years of Professor Lovestone’s research. This is a significant breakthrough in dementia research as it enables scientists to test potential new treatments on people with the earliest stages of Alzheimer’s disease.
Previously, by the time people received a diagnosis and were able to take part in clinical trials their dementia had progressed beyond the point where useful insights into the treatment’s effectiveness could be captured.
The blood test will help researchers target groups of people for future studies, driving the search for new treatments forward and bringing us closer to a cure faster.
You can read more in news stories on the BBC, Telegraph, and The Guardian and on Alzheimer's Research UK Blog. Listen to Prof Lovestone, the renowned study leader, talk more about his pioneering research on this podcast.
Working in close co-operation with the Grand Charity, the MSF Trustees consider requests for grants in support of medical research. Fight for Sight, Action on Hearing Loss and Alzheimer’s Research UK have all been recent successful applicants and were each awarded grants.
The MSF receives many grant applications from individuals seeking treatment for Age-Related Macular Degeneration (AMD), one of the most common forms of visual disability. Fight for Sight has supported research at the Institute of Ophthalmology and the grant from the MSF will fund a PhD student for three years as part of ongoing research into understanding the mechanisms of the development of AMD.
Action on Hearing Loss, formerly the RNID, has been awarded a grant to fund a pioneering project led by Dr Walter Marcotti at the University of Sheffield. The research will increase understanding of progressive age-related hearing loss.
A further grant has been provided to Alzheimer’s Research UK. The grant will help support two years of pioneering research to develop a blood test to diagnose Alzheimer’s. Simon Lovestone, Professor of Old Age Psychiatry at King’s College, London, is leading the study and said, ‘Our aim is to develop a simple blood test that can be used to diagnose Alzheimer’s even before any symptoms show.’