Charities - I am supporting three charities. The first is split into two parts BDfa (Batten Disease Family Association) and the Nicole Rich Foundation. I have no qualms in using visual aids and what you see on the screen now is a poster for the Nicole Rich Foundation. Nicole showed signs from an early age of various symptoms but these symptoms took a long time to diagnose. After some false starts Nicole was diagnosed with Battens Disease and, if, like me you have never heard of the disease it is a genetic disorder. Batten Disease is an extremely rare, fatal neurodegenerative condition for which there is currently no cure. Following this diagnoses Jessica now 14 months was tested and found to carry the defective gene. Their older brother is not a carrier. One of my goals, as well as raising as much money as possible, is to raise awareness of this awful disease. I do not want to spend too much time talking about treatment but suffice to say that although there is treatment at Great Ormond Street they won't accept children into the programme until they are two. However, their parents have found a Doctor in Germany who will treat Jessica also. But in order to do so they have to make regular trips to Germany.
Remember there is no cure at present and also the obstacles they face trying to get funding for research. With the huge steps we have made around genetic testing etc., we must be able to find out why this genetic disorder occurs and how we can fix it.
My second charity is the Children's Heart Foundation based at the Freeman. I recently went to an event where Ivan Hollingsworth spoke about the cash he has raised through his charity Seb4Chuf following the lifesaving heart surgery his son Seb had performed as a new-born in 2009. He has raised in the order of £435000 over the last eight years. I have supported some of their events and am more than happy to name them as one of my charities.
My third charity is the Marie Curie Centre at Elswick. Some of you will know that not long after Mam finished her year my sister was diagnosed with Ovarian Cancer and sadly passed away the following November. You may wonder why then am I not supporting Ovarian Cancer as my charity, the reason is simple:-
a) I have donated to that charity every month since my sister died and
b) This was their charity.
So I am, in their memory, supporting this local branch of the charity.
Before I leave the world of charities I would like to set the Council Members a challenge. I know how much you will all want to support my charities - so to help you out I have placed outside of the chamber a collection bucket and will do so every Council meeting. Please pop some loose change into it - I don't mind if the loose change is notes. At the end of my year I will report on how much has been collected! Don't worry too much I will remind you every meeting!
May I say a big thank you to my colleagues Hilary and Stephen for their kind words and apologise in advance for when I am unable to cover surgeries.
May I also take this opportunity to say thank you to our outgoing Lord Mayor Councillor Hazel Stephenson. Hazel it has been a pleasure and a joy to work so closely with you. You are a hard act to follow but I promise to do my best. I saw first-hand what a knowledgeable and gracious lady you are. Life will be a different type of busy from now on as you get back to your role as a ward councillor.
My Lady Mayoress will be my daughter Hayley and my sister Wendy will be my Deputy Lady Mayoress. My husband Colin who did a sterling job during my year as Sheriff will continue to be my Consort. My two sons will also be Consorts and my eldest Grandson Daniel will be coming up before he goes to University to assist also. In case I need some extra help, and they don't know this yet, I would like my daughters in law Niki and Angela, and my nieces Amy and Amanda to act as Companions and helpers especially when we are raising monies at events for my charities.
My theme for the year kind of follows on from Hazel's theme for the last year, Hayley and I have called it 'Helping Hands'. During the year we would like to recognise and celebrate the dedication and hard work by volunteers in the city. I have been blown away by the lengths and sheer dedication these volunteers go to provide services in their community and the wider community in these times of austerity, their help is invaluable. I hope to have a series of events to say thank you to them during my year and celebrate their achievements, and to this end I will be contacting ward Councillors to help in this as you and you alone know the 'helping hands' in your wards and how I would be delighted to visit any projects they lead when I can.
Before I finish I would just like to say that this is a journey for me that probably was inevitable as I joined Council twenty years ago when Mam was the first Sheriff for about 30 years. After stating on many occasions that I am not mad enough to be a Councillor I am pleased to say I was so very wrong. I was the 100th female Councillor, Mam and I were the first Mother and Daughter on the Council at the same time and we are not the first Mother and Daughter to be Lord Mayors. I am the twentieth female Lord Mayor which when I worked it out was a tiny percentage over the last 800 yeras, we need to increase that percentage ladies! I have been on Council twenty years and it is twenty years since Mam did this role.
I am nervous. As I said before I have a hard act to follow following Councillor Stephenson but I also have a hard act to follow following my Mam. She loved the role and this city and I can say, like her before me I am honoured and proud to follow in her footsteps and at the same time humbled.
I will end by saying - I will do the very best I can and I hope at the end of my year I can say I did good but my way.