Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Research fund launched to honour Mad Butcher

He has networked, nagged and bullied to raise tens of thousands of dollars through fundraising and personal donations for Allergy New Zealand and is truly deserving of the knighthood conferred on him in the Queen’s Birthday Honours List in June.

So how do you thank the Honorary Ambassador Sir Peter Charles Leitch QSM for all his wonderful support given to countless New Zealanders? Allergy New Zealand has acknowledged this by launching The Leitch Family Award for Food Allergy Research at its National Conference in August.

“This is a small way to thank you but it is the best way we can think of to acknowledge you,” chief executive Penny Jorgensen told Sir Peter. “On behalf of all those living with food allergies as well as everyone at Allergy New Zealand, we thank Peter and the Leitch Family from the bottom of our hearts.”

Sir Peter’s support and generosity over the past few years is immeasurable. Earlier this year, Penny spoke with him about plans to launch a fundraising campaign to establish a research programme into the impact and burden of food allergy in New Zealand.

“You immediately reached into your pocket and made a donation of $10,000 to launch this,” Penny said.

The organisation has been fundraising for food allergy research since May this year, and so far has close to $13,500, thanks to Sir Peter’s kick-start.

The research fund will be an ongoing and significant annual project for as long as research is needed, and Allergy New Zealand will continue to raise proceeds.

The Board has been working on a grants process, which it will discuss in more detail with Allergy New Zealand’s medical panel. However, at least one special grant will be made each year with the Leitch Family Award for Food Allergy Research.

The Food Allergy Research Fund was set up because at least 10 babies born everyday* go on to develop food allergies.

“We have been asked why we are putting our energy into research when there are so many other things the organisation needs to do,” Penny said.

“The answer is that in order to advocate for better allergy services, for an adrenaline auto-injector to be funded, for more support through government services and for national allergy and anaphylaxis guidelines to be adopted by schools and early childhood education centres (to name a few), we need to show the prevalence and burden of food allergies in New Zealand, and the cost of doing nothing to alleviate the burden. We have been working on all these things, but we can’t get much traction on these until we have the data and the evidence.”

You can make a donation by going to www.allergy.org.nz or by calling 0800 34 0800.

* Based on 62,960 live births registered in the June 2009 Statistics New Zealand; 6-8 per cent of children under the age of five are affected by food allergy according to international research. The 10 per day is the conservative estimate of 6 per cent of children who have food allergy.

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