We began life in 1987, as a foundation set up by the O’Gorman family in memory of their son and brother Paul O’Gorman. In the early days, the aim was to raise £100,000 for research and support. But within four years, over £1 million had been raised, taking us halfway towards our first major goal – a £2 million research centre at Great Ormond Street Hospital.
Tragically, Paul contracted a virus whilst awaiting the operation, and died on 6 February 1987.
Despite being shattered by his death, the O’Gorman family began fundraising to help prevent other children’s lives being cut short.
The Paul O’Gorman Foundation for Children with Leukaemia was set up in 1987 with the aim of raising £100,000 for research and support for childhood leukaemia.
To highlight the importance of childhood leukaemia, Jane Asher presented a video explaining leukaemia in simple terms, which was sent to every school in Britain.
This vital research and awareness raising was made possible by some fantastic fundraising, such as ‘The Amazing Great Appeal’, that was launched in April – Amazingly Great people doing Amazingly Great things to help save lives. It included the world’s largest children’s party, record-breaking cross-channel balloon flights, sports competitions, quizzes, banquets and balls.
The first major fundraising event, the Paul O’Gorman Banquet and Ball, was organised in October 1987 by Jean, Paul’s sister. It was supported by Arsenal Football Club – Paul had been an ardent fan – and the Littlewoods Cup was on show on the evening.
Sadly, Jean herself was critically ill when she attended the Ball, and also passed away just days later.
The Ball remains a key event in our fundraising calendar, with many regular supporters, and holds a special place in the hearts not only of the O’Gorman family but of the hundreds of people who join us every year.
Days after Jean’s death, Eddie and Marion met Diana, Princess of Wales. Deeply moved by the family’s double tragedy, she became personally involved in the charity, and inaugurated it in January 1988. Her involvement was just the start of what became a strong tradition of celebrity support. In the early years the Foundation received huge support from the efforts of celebrities including Sandy Lyle, Jeremy Beadle, Jane Asher, Joan Collins, Frank Bruno.
Anneka Rice also joined in and took up the challenge on the BBC’s Challenge Anneka to organise three more parties in Scotland, Ireland and Wales, describing it as one of the most moving and exciting Challenges she had ever done.
By the end of 1990, the first £1 million had been raised – including over £8,000 raised by Paul’s brother Cliff and Paul’s brother in-law, who had organised a group to run the 1988 London Marathon. This took us halfway towards our first major goal – a £2 million research centre at Great Ormond Street, and enabled work to get underway headed by Professor Judith Chessells, the Foundation’s Chair of Paediatric Haematology.
We also employed our first three staff members. One of them, Pippa Gough, started as a volunteer in our very first year and is now our Head of Compliance.