July 2023 sees the third edition of the annual charity bike ride ‘Raptör’ which sees professionals from the insurance industry coming together to help raise funds and awareness for Action Medical Research.
We recently caught up with Action supporter and Chief Executive Officer of Ki Insurance and Executive Director of Brit Insurance, Mark Allan, about the ride and his personal connection to the charity’s work.
Over the years, Action Medical Research has funded research projects in childhood cancers, including a current project investigating new treatments for childhood leukaemia. We’ve also funded down syndrome research, including a project which helped to improve understanding of the visual abilities and difficulties faced by children with Down syndrome and research to improve screening to help early diagnosis of obstructive sleep apnoea in children with Down syndrome. Please could you tell us about your family’s experience of these conditions?
Our daughter and our whole family went through a traumatic experience when she was just a baby, and we feel truly lucky that advances in medical science mean she’s still with us today. The diagnosis was a complete shock, we were due to go on our summer holiday and instead spent months in hospital fearing for the worst. As our daughter also has immune deficiencies she was admitted as an inpatient into hospital and went through weeks of intensive treatment and care. It was an absolute rollercoaster, and a huge strain on our family, but we had amazing news when the chemo worked and April went into remission. This was just over 10 years ago now and I’m delighted to say it’s been cancer-free so far.
April also has Downs Syndrome which is a condition caused by an extra chromosome, something she was born with, and causes global developmental delays (physical and cognitive). I didn’t know much about Downs Syndrome when April was born, so it was very daunting and nothing can prepare you for the shock of the diagnosis. Understanding the condition took months and, like everyone else, people with Downs Syndrome are unique in character and abilities so we’re constantly learning about what motivates, frustrates and inspires April. At times it is very challenging but over the years April has shown us that any preconceptions are nonsense and we’re trying to support her to live her life to the full. I am constantly inspired by April's attitude, determination and grit – she faces more challenges than almost everyone and yet sets her mind on what she wants to do and does not waver! We are facing new challenges now as she reaches an age where she’s more aware of how she is different and we need to keep learning.
How has your personal experience motivated you to be involved with Action Medical Research?
The amazing doctors and nurses helped save our daughter using treatments developed prior to her birth but we also saw how much pain she went through and got to know other kids who weren’t so lucky. There is so much more that can be done to improve the treatments and outcomes for children with cancer, I want to do something to help with research and funding.
The statistics on research into children’s illnesses and conditions shows that there is a dramatic lack of funding (given the skew in profits on drugs and treatments towards the adult market). This means there is a huge opportunity to improve the lives of children in the future, and quite often the discoveries have wider application that helps the whole population. I’d love to think that helping raise funds for Action has helped in some small way to help kids in the future.
I also think Action’s focus on funding research with a scientific approach to selecting projects is a great way to ensure funds go to the most impactful research. Having met a number of the research teams I’m convinced the research funding is well utilised and we’re seeing real progress on critical issues.
What does the Raptör ride mean to you and what are you looking forward to about this years’ event?
Raptör s a very personal event that brings together people from the London Insurance Market for a fun challenge but also to support an amazing cause in Action. The event has been a real success in the last couple of years, making a huge contribution to the charity’s fundraising as well as creating a real buzz in the market. We’ve made the ride as inclusive as possible and I can guarantee all the riders will get a warm welcome! Everyone stays in touch and we’re looking forward to a lot of repeat riders coming back for another great event this year.
Our route this year takes us into new territory, through England to the coast and then across to Amsterdam and ending up in Brussels. We were inspired to ride from Lloyd’s in London to our European headquarters as a challenge!
Personally, I think it is wonderful to see the collective ambition of the group to do something inspiring and spend their own time fundraising and training towards a great few days in the saddle!
I’m delighted to see some new corporate sponsors joining from the market this year, including Lloyd’s itself. We’ll make even more of a difference by broadening the group out so I’m very grateful to our co-sponsors and all of the riders in 2023.