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January 2024 Newsletter

Whenever we encourage people to sign up to our mailing list we promise them they won’t be bombarded with emails - however, we didn’t intend them to be as infrequent as they have become! We have so much to share, yet struggle to find the time to share it. Our plan for 2024 is to share with you more regularly, but we promise it still won’t be to the point of bombardment!

 

2023 was an incredible year for LoveOliver - Conifox’s Tartan Titan event, Battle Cancer, the Forth Rail Bridge Abseil and 10k on Hogmanay being just a few of our fundraising highlights. It was great to have so many supporters raise awareness and funds, in so many different ways, throughout the year, and to be able to welcome volunteer work-day teams to both the shop and the Hub. The shop went from strength to strength and, sad as we were to have to say goodbye to Kate at the start of the year, we were delighted to welcome both Anne and Amy onto the staff team.

 




Our board of trustees has gone through some changes too, and now consists of Andrew Gill, Kate MacDonald, Dr Mark Brougham, Maggie Gill, Jennifer Lucas, Sarah Carter and Gregor MacKenzie. The charity has grown significantly over the last few years, and we valued the chance to have a trustee training day, where we were able to evaluate where we are at, and our next steps.

 

We continue to grow our work at the Howat Hub, and are delighted that the lease for the Hub has now been signed over to LoveOliver. This means that we are now in charge of the running of the whole Hub as opposed to only the cafe, and are able to expand our activities and services. For example, we now run a monthly teenage night, along with Young Lives vs Cancer and Teenage Cancer Trust.


These events are well attended and enjoyed by all - so far these have involved lots of pizza and chat as well as baking and games. We have monthly Bookbug sessions starting this month too, and have plans to start regular pre-teen get togethers soon, funded by our Joe Clapperton Fund. We have made one of the rooms upstairs into an office for parents who need a quiet space, and decent wifi, to be able to keep working during their child’s hospital stays, and we are in the process of turning the warehouse into a “shop” which will be stocked with children’s clothes, toys and games, as well as books, toiletries and food for families to access during in-patient stays.


We have an incredibly dedicated team at the Hub, and are excited about how everything is developing there. We also run regular events alongside Helen Veitch from the ward’s after-care service, and these are always really well attended, and very special occasions. Our Christmas event was made particularly special by the generosity of Rob and Rachel, from Lifetime Photography, giving families the chance to have the most beautiful Christmas photos taken.

 

There is a continual need for financial support for families and healthy meals for parents, and we are able to provide these quickly and flexibly, to ensure support is given where and when it is needed most. We have freezers on both the Edinburgh and Glasgow wards which receive weekly deliveries of COOK meals, and parents are finding this an incredible practical support. We also send deliveries to the YLvC parent accommodation, and in exceptional circumstances, to home addresses.


We were pleased to be able to support families over the Christmas period with either Christmas dinner, or a full freezer for over the festive period, as this is such a special gift to be able to give. We also continue to provide every family in Scotland facing a childhood cancer diagnosis with a quality digital thermometer, which becomes one of their most important possessions during treatment and beyond.

 

Based on a successful first year report, we were pleased to be able to release the funding for the second year of the £100,000 research project which we are fully funding at Newcastle University. This project is in collaboration with the Grace Kelly Childhood Cancer Trust’s research advisory board. We are really encouraged by all the feedback we receive from the team at Newcastle University, about the impact our technician post is having on the work in their labs, and have extended our funding of this post for a further two years. We are in the process of planning a visit to Newcastle University, and also look forward to being able to welcome Dr Dan Williamson and our LoveOliver technician James Hacking to the Hub for seminars in due course. We have included a recent update from Dr Dan at the end of this newsletter.

 

In 2023, we were able to increase our opening hours at The LoveOliver Shop, from four days to five days, and the hard work of our team there is having a huge impact on the wider work of the charity. It was a privilege to be trusted to run the Kingdom Centre’s Santa’s Grotto once again, and we are forever grateful for their ongoing support.

 

The research LoveOliver is funding, and the practical support we are providing, would not be possible without the ongoing incredible support of so many individuals, groups and workplaces. Thank you so much to each and every one of you. We are planning a big event for later this year, so please look out for more details coming soon - we would love you to be there! If you are part of a group or workplace that would like to hear more about the work of LoveOliver, please email jennifer@loveoliver.org.uk to arrange a date for a presentation.

 

Research Update

As promised, here is the update from Dr Dan Williamson at Newcastle University. If you would like to read the more in-depth and technical version please get in touch and we can send you a copy.

 

“We are thrilled to provide you with an update on the latest developments taking place in the lab, supported by LoveOliver’s funding. Our dedicated technician, James Hacking, has been granted an additional two years of funding from LoveOliver, and his contributions to the lab continue to be invaluable.


James played a pivotal role in developing a tool that identifies the specific type of medulloblastoma (a childhood brain tumour) in a child, pinpointing when the cancer originated in their early development and predicting their response to therapy. Recently, James, along with a colleague, authored a technical guide on utilising this tool. This was published in September in Star Protocols*. We anticipate that this guide will empower researchers worldwide to use the tool, leading to improved treatments for children by determining whether their therapy can be safely reduced or needs adjustment. Also this tool helps us to understand more precisely the biology of each tumour so that we can identify better treatments.


James has been exploring the application of “liquid biopsies” for children with Malignant Rhabdoid Tumours. This involves detecting minuscule quantities of tumour in a child’s blood or spinal fluid. This innovative approach holds promise for more effective patient treatment, as blood and spinal fluid samples are more easily obtainable. This method could serve as an early warning system for tumour recurrence. James has already developed the necessary techniques in the lab, and we are now in the process of applying them to real-world patient samples. We are delighted to welcome Rosemary Bailey (see picture), a new team member, partially funded by LoveOliver. Rose is tasked with overseeing the handling of precious patient samples donated for research and implementing liquid biopsy methods. James has been diligently training Rose to take the lead on this project in the coming years.


Witnessing the realisation and application of the work conceived in our lab is immensely gratifying. While it is still in its early stages, we extend our gratitude to all LoveOliver supporters for enabling us to launch these initiatives. Stay tuned for more updates in the coming months.

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