His parents Keith and Kay worked tirelessly to turn their son's vision into a reality and in 2009 they established Register and Be A Lifesaver (R&Be) – a campaign which is an education programme helping to teach 16-18 year olds about the importance of donating bone marrow, blood and organs. The campaign was first supported by, and now run by Anthony Nolan, as well as NHSBT.
I first came across Keith and Kay when I was approached by representatives of Anthony Nolan and asked if I wished to become a volunteer for R&Be. I didn't hesitate at all. For myself, it represented a great way of reaching out to young pupils in schools and colleges and sharing my own experience along with Adrian's vision to help educate and inform others. I was one of the first volunteers to join the campaign and, for a while, I was used as the face of some advertising material to promote the campaign. I was honoured to be helping share the vision of such an inspirational person such as Adrian and I quickly found that it was also a cathartic experience for myself.
The presentations were aimed at encouraging the young pupils to join the blood, organ and bone marrow register. Through explaining the process of what donating blood and bone marrow entails, people can have an firm understanding of what is involved in helping save people's lives with a view of doing so themselves This really hit home with pupils I visited in schools and colleges across the multicultural cities such as Birmingham and Bristol. I remember being joined on one of my presentations by a mother who had not long lost her son in a car accident, perhaps twelve to eighteen months previous. Her family had decided to donate their son's organs and had been told that in doing so their son had saved over ten people's lives. Quite incredible.
Since my involvement in the early days of R&Be, the campaign has gained more and more interest and support – most notably from Ed Balls, who was the Secretary of State for Children, Schools and Familes at the time, who had previously met and supported Adrian. Ed visited a presentation that Keith was delivering in Barnsley at which I was present. I had an opportunity to speak with the Labour MP about how important the R&Be volunteers felt it was that the government back the campaign. The presentation in Barnsley was a success and resulted in Keith, Kay, myself and an army of volunteers being invited to a parliamentary reception at the House of Lords in Westminster, where we had the opportunity to inform lots of MPs about the importance of supporting the campaign.
In the past few years R&Be has developed quite incredibly. The campaign is now fully nationwide, has seven regional managers, and teams of trained volunteer presenters – all of whom visit schools and colleges and give awareness to 16-18 year olds about the importance of donating blood, bone marrow and organs. Keith Sudbury explains, "We bust the myths surrounding donation." He continues, "Both Anthony Nolan and NHSBT are delighted with our success". Furthermore, R&Be has placed 12,700 people on the Anthony Nolan register, has produced 11,500 new blood donors and added 5,200 people onto the organ register. R&Be is making a huge difference and saving lives. The true "icing on the cake", as Keith describes it, and perhaps the most significant of all the statistics surrounding R&Be is that since the inception of the campaign 44 students have been matched, donated and potentially saved lives. Keith quite rightly calls it "an outstanding achievement".
Asked whether or not R&Be has surpassed expectations, Keith states, "We always believed that R&Be would be successful and that students would find the presentation engaging and thought provoking. What has really surprised us is the number of students who have joined the register and the number who have gone onto donate." He further explains that Adrian "would be very proud of what R&Be has achieved". Both Keith, Kay and the dedicated team of R&Be volunteers have no intention of slowing down and, in their own words, plan to keep working with "all our existing schools and to open up as many opportunities with lots of new ones in order to educate as many 16-18 year olds as possible."
I am personally so very proud to have seen this campaign develop from the vision of one incredible young man into a national campaign that is actively helping save people's lives. The determination and hard work of Keith, Kay and their dedicated R&Be team at Anthony Nolan is really clear to see and along with being a reward that all those involved so richly deserve, the campaign essentially provides hope for all those battling blood cancer.