|Area served||United Kingdom|
|Focus(es)||Paediatric research, Children's health|
|Motto||For children's health|
Sparks is a leading children's medical research charity dedicated to funding and championing pioneering research into a range of conditions affecting babies, children and mums-to-be. Through the research they fund, they aim to improve the quality of life for children and families affected by serious illness or disability today, whilst seeking ways to better diagnose, treat and prevent these conditions in the future. Their vision is a world where all babies are born healthy and stay healthy.
Sparks was founded in 1960, when Duncan Guthrie enlisted the support of some of the leading sports personalities of the day, including Jimmy Hill and Arsenal and Wales star Wally Barnes; Ryder Cup golf captain Dai Rees; and cricket legend Jim Laker, to start a charity to help sick children.
These eminent sportsmen were lucky enough to be making their living by playing the games they loved and were only too pleased to help those children who might never have the opportunity to play sport at all. Jim Laker was the first Chairman of Sparks and fellow cricket icon Sir Alec Bedser the first President. Sir Alec was succeeded as President by another inspirational British hero, Group Captain Sir Douglas Bader. It was the birth of a long and illustrious lineage of famous names in Sparks's history.
The tradition continues to this day and patrons in more recent years include 2003 Rugby World Cup winners Martin Johnson, Lawrence Dallaglio, Jason Leonard and Matt Dawson, Olympic rowers Sir Matthew Pinsent, Sir Steve Redgrave and Tim Foster, footballers Sir Trevor Brooking and Ray Clemence, World Golf Hall of Fame inductee Colin Montgomerie and celebrity couple Gabby and Kenny Logan.
Sparks contributed to the research that led to the development of a vaccine for polio that has virtually eradicated the disease worldwide. Sparks built upon this success to fund research into other disease and played a significant role in the development of the rubella vaccine and the discovery that folic acid can help counter the risk of babies being born with spina bifida.
In 1991, Sparks became an independent charity, funding ground breaking paediatric medical research projects across a wide range of conditions affecting babies and young children. Childhood cancers, meningitis, spina bifida, muscular dystrophy, infant brain damage, club foot and all the dangers associated with premature birth are just a few of the research areas where Sparks is active.
The pioneering projects Sparks fund are carried out at leading teaching hospitals and universities throughout the UK and have made significant contributions to treatment breakthroughs being used by doctors all over the world.
The councils and officers of the charity are Chairman David Mills, Deputy Chairman Simon Waugh, Company Secretary David Metcalfe ACIB, and the Hon. Treasurer Julian Wilkinson FCA. The Trustees are Tim Brooke-Taylor, Sir Trevor Brooking CBE, Floella Benjamin OBE, Roger Uttley OBE, Hugh Edmeades, Guy Gregory, Michael Higgins, Gabby Logan, David Orr, Frank van den Bosch, Victoria Glaysher and Chief Executive John Shanley FCCA.
Areas of research
Sparks funds research into a variety of conditions affecting pregnant women, babies and children such as pre-eclampsia, spina bifida, brain damage, cystic fibrosis, cleft lip and palate, juvenile idiopathic arthritis and childhood cancers.
In February 2009, Ronnie Corbett took part in a Radio 4 appeal to help Sparks launch George's Appeal in memory of 9 year-old George Yeomans who died from neuroblastoma. Sparks aims to raise £2million by 2010 to continue the search for better treatments and hopefully find a cure for the condition.
In January 2009, Olympic Gold medalist James Cracknell took part in the Amundsen Omega 3 South Pole Race with his TV presenter friend Ben Fogle and Dr Ed Coats as members of Team QinetiQ. The trio were raising funds for Sparks in memory of Cracknell's niece, Eva, who died at six days old after suffering oxygen deprivation at birth. Team QinetiQ finished in second, 20 hours behind the long distance ski experts in the winning Norwegian team Missing Link.