David Cole

David Cole

Growing a Charity – Monday January 14th 2019

During the past four and a half years the majority of the work of Thinking of Oscar has been done by David and myself, with invaluable support and contributions from our trustees and advisors. This is not surprising since the cause is driven by our own determination to create a legacy for Oscar and to find something positive out of an event which, quite frankly, has turned our world upside down, broken our hearts, fractured friendships, shattered our trust in life and irrevocably transformed our perspective on the world. In the blink of an eye we lost our little boy. In our worst nightmares we had not seriously contemplated the possibility that we might not bring him home again. Suddenly that nightmare was our life. Now, whilst Oscar has lost the opportunity to live his own life, we are left to do something worthwhile with our own. We owe it to him to do just that.

Since Oscar’s death we have been powered by an unnatural energy to get stuff done. In the early years it served as a distraction, to numb our pain. Now, it is the default for what we do when our other children have gone to bed. There have been times when it has felt like we were pushing water up hill. On occasion I would question our validity. I wondered whether we were kidding ourselves. Could we really make a difference? Then we started to work on our 5th anniversary fundraising campaign, TOO500, a cycle ride beginning at The Oxford Children’s Hospital, then visiting 5 of the UK’s best-known children’s hospitals and covering 500 miles in five days in June 2019. Our goal, to raise awareness of the need to invest in child health and to raise £500,000. We knew that to maximise the value of this campaign we should not be doing it on our own. This needed to be a professionally run event. It needed to be a ride which was tempting to take part in, interesting, safe and fun. And so, after much research we engaged the services of Jim and Andy, of Zing Event Management. All of a sudden, our team was growing. Perhaps serendipitously Corporation Pop then came into our lives. David had met their CEO, Dom Raban, and discovered a shared passion for improving outcomes in child health. Out of the blue Dom volunteered the services of his team to build an event website for us. We are extremely grateful for that generosity and the beautiful job that they have done for us. The next step was to engage PR and Communications support of our own. With local and national interest, it was going to be essential and so Fortitude Communications joined our team.

All of this growth has not come about without a share of worry. It’s one thing sitting at our kitchen table together, updating our website, working with the hospitals on campaigns, pulling together the squads of people as we have done each year to raise money at The Blenheim Palace Triathlon. With contracts in place we had a new responsibility to the charity and our donors. After much deliberation and analysis, we decided that it was time to take an informed leap of faith and just run hard. And so www.too500.co.uk came to be.

At the same time, one by one the hospitals were coming on board. Royal Manchester, Great Ormond Street, Alder Hey, Birmingham and Sheffield all agreed to collaborate and work with us on this unique project.  At each hospital we liaise with their marketing and communications contacts, as you would expect, for local recruitment of riders and promotion of the ride. We have clinical leads in each institution to ensure that there is going to be a suitable project for us to invest in once the funds have been raised. We also connected with all of the hospital charity groups to ensure that we are aligned to their priorities and that we have visibility within each organisation. A few weeks ago, we arranged for all of the hospitals to get together on a conference call in order that we could brief them collectively and seek consensus on how funds raised would be spent. Looking back on it I don’t know why we were surprised by this call but at the time we were quite taken aback by the enthusiasm and level of support that they were offering us. Prestigious organisations represented by clinicians with brains the size of planets and they believed in our mission. They recognised value in what we could achieve as a collective. There was an assumption that we would meet or exceed our fundraising objective. The call came to an end and we looked across the room at each other. We’d better just get on and make it happen then, we said.

You can follow our progress via www.thinkingofoscar.com, www.too500.co.uk, and @thinkingofoscar on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.

#TOO500 – Thursday January 10th 2019

What’s it all about?

TOO500, which stands for Thinking of Oscar 500, is the name of the bike ride which we are organising to mark the 5th anniversary of the charity and five years since Oscar died. The significance of the 500 is that this is the number of miles that will be cycled from start to finish.

The ride begins in Oxford on Wednesday 12th June 2019. From there we ride to Birmingham Children’s Hospital, Alder Hey Children’s Hospital in Liverpool, The Royal Manchester Children’s Hospital, over the Pennines to Sheffield Children’s Hospital, down to Great Ormond Children’s Hospital in London and back up to Oxford, arriving on Sunday 16th June 2019.

The purpose of the ride is to raise awareness of the need to invest more in child health and to raise £500,000. Having achieved our fundraising goal we will continue to work with the consortia of children’s hospitals that we have brought together in order to continue to have a good understanding as to how they are spending the money raised by Thinking of Oscar. We will then invite all those involved to reconvene 18 months later to enable each institution to present back to the rest of the group about what they have achieved during that time.

Registration for the event is now open and you can find out more about it at www.too500.co.uk and see the route map here.  You are welcome to join us for the entire ride or for one or more days. We are also seeking corporate partners. Those relationships might take different forms; including for example,  a donation that covers the cost of some or all of the event, or a bespoke arrangement which enables a number of employees to participate in the ride themselves. You can contact us directly or via info@too500.co.uk in order to find out more.

2018 in Review – Saturday December 29th 2018

Where to start? So much has happened with the charity this year it does feel like 2018 has been a pivotal one for us.

For the past 18 months we have been preparing for how we were going to mark the 5th Anniversary of Thinking of Oscar, and of course five  years since we lost Oscar. During that time our energy has mostly been spent on ensuring the monies we had raised to date were being deployed productively. We wanted to make sure that there was a reason to stick with us. We wanted to make sure there was value in what we were doing, that children having some kind of positive experience or another in hospital was benefiting. We wanted to earn the trust of supporters who had donated in the past and give them good reason to choose to continue to support Thinking of Oscar in the future.

As a result, we completed on some projects including:

The Super Hero Kit campaign, which ran at Oxford’s Children’s Hospital, The Royal Manchester Children’s Hospital and Leicester Royal Infirmary. The feedback we received from the hospitals was that the kits had been very well received. Their purpose is to reward children having prolonged hospital visits and you can click here to see some beautiful pictures sent to us by the team at The Royal Manchester Children’s Hospital.

We made a visit to The Oxford Vaccine Group to see how they were getting on with the  Biotek Washer that we had donated to them. This was far more strategic that we had initially understood, in that by using the equipment they are able to accelerate their research dramatically. Given that this is the group responsible for the majority of the child vaccination programme in the UK this benefit cannot be over stated.

We also visited the team using the Simulation kits donated by Thinking of Oscar to understand how their use can benefit our children. In the paediatric context simulation training is used to prepare medical professionals for events which are quite unlikely but where there is no room for error in the event that they do happen. An example of how the innovative kit is being used is that it enables the trainer to alter the data seen by the nurses and doctors, suggesting that the patient’s condition is either worsening or improving and enforcing the professionals to adjust what they are doing real time during the training, just as in real life.

In parallel with making sure the investments  we have been making are having the desired effect we have also been working intently on our 2019 fundraising campaign; TOO500. We will talk more about this in a separate article but in a nutshell, the campaign involves cycling from Oxford to five of the UK’s most well-known children’s hospitals, covering 500 miles in five  days. The purpose of the ride is to raise awareness of the need to invest in child health and to raise £500,000 which will be shared amongst the . What makes this campaign exciting is its uniqueness. Quite apart from the physical challenge of the journey, we have brought together six fantastic institutions, all of whom share a desire to take advantage of technological advancement to drive improvements in outcomes in child health. You can read more about Thinking of Oscar at www.thinkingofoscar.com and more about our plans for 2019 at www.too500.co.uk.

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Inspired – Monday November 27th 2017

We had an inspirational trip to Alder Hey Children’s Hospital today to visit one of our advisors and introduce them to a partner organisation of ours.

Alder Hey Children’s Hospital moved to a brand new site two years ago and is driven by innovation. They are very ‘patient first’ and this has resulted in the creation of a unique environment which is incredibly well placed to improve outcomes for children. Innovation at Alder Hey in the Park, the new site, is evident on arrival. Inspired by design suggestions from children at the hospital there is a strong focus on connecting the indoor and outdoor environments. Common across many of the suggestions submitted were images of the outdoors and so three wings of the hospital represent leaves.

Alder Hey2

This layout, whilst harder work for the staff in terms navigating themselves around the hospital site, is optimal for patients because it means that each room has access to natural light. Play areas at the end of each wing all open out to an outdoor play area and a view of greenery.

Inside the architecture is similarly thoughtful and innovative, from a heavy use of wood, which has a calming influence, to the absence of use of traditional cleaning materials (the hospital does not smell like a hospital), to the placement of tactile characters which are found through out the hospital, a huge amount of thought and effort has gone into creating a space where the stress of being in hospital, for both the child and their family, is significantly reduced. One of the areas I was most struck by was this very normal looking kitchen.

Alder Hey3

Every ward has it’s own kitchen… originally set up just for children being treated for various forms of cancer, who struggle tasting food as a result of their treatment, the hospital quickly learned that rather than being an exceptional overhead, offering the children what they wanted to eat, at the time of day or night that suited them dramatically reduced wastage and therefore cost. It is too early to measure the healing benefits of this innovative approach but it’s a logical assumption that benefits to their rate of healing and general well being would be increased.

As we have learned through our work to date with Thinking of Oscar, Paediatric Healthcare is a proportionately under invested segment and new innovations are typically targeted at problems facing adults. These may then adapted for use for children and babies, and sometimes this means that potential benefits are compromised. Alder Hey have a specialist innovation team who are very focused on evaluating and successfully deploying innovative technologies and practices for the benefit of the children in their care. From an AI driven app, which aids communication between the hospital and the patient and their parents as well as providing entertainment to distract them, to 3D printers which are used to create various simulated body parts to improve the realism of training, to Virtual Reality systems enabling a clinician to ‘walk’ around the body prior to a critical operation to help them to plan an approach.

2017 has been an incredibly busy year for Thinking of Oscar. We are still in the process of updating our website with all of the projects which are now underway, and if you are interested then please do check back with us periodically as you will note constant change. The partner organisation we introduced today to Alder Hey are Babypod.com. In conjunction with Williams Advanced Engineering they are building highly technical devices which facilitate the easier and safer transportation and scanning of very young children. We intend to fund a number of these into a number of hospitals across England over the next 12 months.

Visits like today are so important to help us to continue to inform our thinking as to the best ways to successfully apply innovation into paediatrics and to learn from the expertise of others.

#thinkingofoscar

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