Researching with focus
The Masonic Samaritan Fund has dedicated more than £227,000 this year to fund medical research aimed at combating progressive neurological diseases
Many masonic families are coping with the daily challenges of supporting a person affected by the disabling symptoms of Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s or motor neurone disease (MND), for which there are no cures. As well as providing grants to help people living with these illnesses, the MSF supports medical research that aims to improve the understanding, diagnosis and treatment of these conditions. The MSF makes funding decisions by considering the aims of the research and how closely they align to the needs of the masonic community.
The Motor Neurone Disease Association (MNDA) received £57,207 to advance understanding of the disease that affects mainly men in their fifties to seventies. In England, more than three thousand five hundred people are living with symptoms that have an impact on how they walk, talk, eat and breathe. The MSF has awarded more than £2.4 million to provide mobility aids and equipment to help people with MND and other disabling conditions to live as independently as possible, for as long as possible.
BRACE, a charity that funds research into dementia, received £26,000 to advance a test for early Alzheimer’s diagnosis. Alzheimer’s affects one in fourteen people over the age of sixty-five and one in six over the age of eighty. This condition can often lead to the need for round-the-clock care and the MSF regularly provides respite care grants to offer carers a valued break.
The Cure Parkinson’s Trust received £144,000 to study the impact of a new treatment for the disease. Someone newly diagnosed with Parkinson’s may not need any practical help, but the MSF Counselling Careline offers emotional support and guidance for masonic families coping with a new diagnosis.
With most progressive neurological diseases, symptoms vary from person to person and can sometimes take years to progress to a point where they impede their quality of life. Through funding medical research, the MSF hopes to not only improve the practical support it can offer to masonic families, but make possible revolutionary research that could cure these conditions for future generations.
Freemasons, their wives, partners, widows and dependent family members newly diagnosed with a progressive disease should call the MSF today to discuss preparing to make a grant application.
Chris Tarr, of St Keyna Lodge, No. 1833, which meets in Bristol, has a rare, progressive neurological condition and his wife suffers from multiple sclerosis. Although there are no cures for these conditions, the Province of Somerset and the MSF are proud to have partnered in providing mobility aids and home adaptations to help the couple retain their independence.
‘The support given to me by the MSF, my lodge Almoner and Provincial Almoner has been tremendous,’ said Chris. ‘Together, they fitted an entry platform lift and stairlift, and also provided a wheelchair-accessible car. I’d recommend that anyone who needs specialist equipment not readily available from the NHS, or which is cost prohibited, should talk to their Almoner and see what help is available. Like me, they could be pleasantly surprised.’
Letters to the editor - No. 25 Spring 2014
I was pleased to see in the autumn issue that the Masonic Samaritan Fund is providing important support to research into progressive neurological diseases. My wife Joan was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s at sixty-seven but she needed care long before that. I was her carer, and eventually twenty-four-hour nurse, at home. Watching her, from when she couldn’t locate a stamp on a letter through to the inability to open her mouth to eat, was traumatic.
I now work to raise awareness and funds for dementia research. I have learned that donated human brain tissue is the gold standard for research, but is in desperately short supply, and so last year I became a donor to the programme called Brains for Dementia Research, which recruits people with and without dementia www.brainsfordementiaresearch.org.uk). When I die, my brain will be used to help researchers better understand the differences between brains with and without dementia, and new donors are always needed.
I am sure many members will have had experience of dementia among their friends and families so will therefore be interested in this, as well as the important support to research from the Masonic Samaritan Fund.
Fred Walker, Caledonian Lodge, No. 204, Manchester, East Lancashire
This year, six Provinces were represented, with a team of 10 Provincial Stewards from Essex taking part. The ride, which included non-masons,
is known as the Master’s Ride. A main charity is selected each year to receive at least £100 from each rider. In addition, riders are encouraged
to support any charity selected by their Master or Province.
This year’s main charity was WheelPower, which helps disabled youngsters participate in sport and lead a more fulfilling life. Other worthy causes included the Mark Festival, the Essex Festival, the British Heart Foundation, the Motor Neurone Disease Association, Cancer Research UK and the Barford Court Royal Masonic Benevolent Institution Care Home. Some of the riders cycled the final part of the journey with children and grandchildren.
Paul Sully, from Middlesex, has organised the event for the past seven years, and the £30,000 pledged for this year’s event brought the total raised to more than £140,000. Next year’s ride is planned for Saturday 23 June. As the Paralympics will follow shortly after, it has been decided to run the event again in aid of WheelPower, who are the main charity sponsoring British wheelchair sport. Further details are available on the Middlesex Provincial website at www.pglm.org.uk.