Event Preview: Climb of Life 2018

As the 12th Climb of Life campaign for the ICR is ramping up, organisers and fundraisers alike are hoping to reach another milestone.


Everything to do with the Climb of Life (COL) presents a challenge – the organisation of the event, the climb itself, of course, but also the fundraising.

This year, the stakes are even higher. As the 2018 theme of ‘THE £1 MILLION MOUNTAIN CHALLENGE 4 ICR’ implies, the goal is to reach a total of £1 million ($1.3 million) in support of the Institute of Cancer Research (ICR) over the past 12 years. As COL founder, industry veteran and Chairman of the BOSS Business Supplies Charity Graeme Chapman MBE explains: “To reach the magical £1 million for the ICR, we have to hit a fundraising total of £100,000 this year. If we achieve this, it would also mean we’ve raised £100,000 for the fourth year in a row which would be phenomenal.”

On 2nd November 2018, from the Swan Hotel in beautiful Grasmere, about 120 volunteers from the UK’s business supplies industry will be setting out in their walking boots, ski jackets, gloves and woolly hats to scale some of the toughest peaks in England’s Lake District. As the apparel suggests, conditions are typically wintery and very breezy, adding to the challenge. Once again, two of the trekkers will be ICR CEO Professor Paul Workman and his wife Liz. They will spend the day climbing mountains and in the evening talk in more depth about the ICR’s work and the progress that’s been made with cancer prevention as well as treatment.

Professor Workman says: “My wife and I always really enjoy the Climb of Life. It is a fantastic event and I am so proud to be involved. The huge efforts of everybody participating really inspire me and all my ICR colleagues to go the extra mile in our research.

“But even though great progress is being made, there is still much more work to be done. All the monies raised from COL go towards vital research at the ICR, so we can study how cancer evolves and becomes drug-resistant, and find better ways of treating the disease.”

Raising that money is done in a number of ways. From braving those mountains and getting involved in a whole host of other activities such as auctions, cake sales, car washes and a wide array of sporting challenges, all sponsorship money and proceeds contribute to making the goal of finding cures and prolonging lives, and ultimately preventing cancer, a reality one day.

This year, COL for the first time has added a spin-off sister event to its mountain climbing challenge. Coordinated by Durable UK Managing Director Sean Starkey, the inaugural Ride of Life (ROL) will take place on 7 September, starting from the ICR campus in Sutton, Surrey.

ROL will consist of two routes: The longer 100 km (65 miles) course takes in the iconic climbs of Leith Hill and Box Hill while a shorter, but still challenging 67 km (37 miles) ride also includes Box Hill, where much of the action of the 2012 London Olympics road race took place. All proceeds from ROL will also go to the ICR. (To find out more about ROL, email sean.starkey@durable-uk.com).

Why support COL and the ICR?

Three of the main fundraisers of COL are VOW/EVO Group, Hamelin Brands UK and OPI. Here’s why they choose to take part in this important UK industry initiative and continue to be at the forefront of COL’s fundraising activities.

Philip Beer, Managing Director, Hamelin Brands UK

Hamelin Brands became a standalone fundraiser for COL in 2014. We had participated via VOW for several years beforehand, but decided to organise our own fundraising activities instead of just giving an annual donation. We also saw it as a great way to spend some time out of negotiations with some of our major customers!

Fundraising is always a chore as you go back every year to the same group of individuals and companies. This is why getting new people involved really helps as it widens the net. Hamelin’s customers, suppliers and staff and even employees’ families have all been very supportive. If any of them are reading this now – thank you again!

Over the course of the year, we raise money for COL within Hamelin with initiatives like ‘bring a cake to work’, auctioning gifts and fancy dress days. All the proceeds go to the ICR.

In terms of my own personal begging emails and requests for donations, any activities usually involve me making a fool of myself in order to get a laugh and hopefully some money! This year I have gone early with my fundraising as my brother and I took part in Ventouxman, a Half Ironman, with the bike leg of it going up 2,000 metres to the top of Mont Ventoux  – that’s the iconic Tour de France bike climb. Again, all the monies are going to COL and the ICR.

This month, Hamelin and I personally are supporting the new spin-off event, the Ride of Life. This is part of our current wave of fundraising efforts to push up the total before the final leg that concludes with the actual Climb of Life in early November. And then we will stop until next year.

Originally, we started COL to support VOW as an important customer. We continue because we have seen the incredible effort Graeme Chapman and his team put into it. And we know how important the money is to the ICR – the organisation itself has people climbing the mountains of the Lake District every year. Importantly, they also explain what the monies are being used for and the progress that’s being made with cancer research from year to year.

My team and I have made new friends in the whole process and have enjoyed that part of the experience immensely. And having done a half reasonable job fundraising over the past few years, I can’t imagine why we would want to stop!

Steve Haworth, CEO, EVO Group of Companies

We’ve been involved with COL since the very beginning, given the obvious connection with Graeme Chapman as a long-standing Kingfield Heath employee. I think many people perceive COL as a VOW or EVO-linked event. I see it very simply as a group of ‘connected’ individuals, whether by profession, family or friendship, who want to take the opportunity to give something back to an incredibly worthwhile cause.

In terms of organisation, the initiative is very ably led by Graeme and a small group of volunteers who support all aspects of what is in fact a very complex undertaking. I would recommend anybody wanting to get involved in supporting this year’s £1 million mountain challenge for the ICR to get in touch with Graeme.

In the meantime, my colleagues and I will contribute by getting wet and cold in early November. But there’s no doubt that we’ll have a huge sense of achievement and satisfaction as we trek the fells of the Lake District on behalf of those who really need our help!

Steve Hilleard, CEO, OPI

OPI has been involved with COL for nine years now. If those years have shown us anything, it’s that the battle against cancer never stops. Yes, there are many success stories where so much progress has been made in the fight against the disease. But how often do we still see heartbreak when lives, families and friendships are shattered because of yet another devastating diagnosis or, worse, loss of life?

We got involved because we as an organisation and all the individuals in it wanted to play a tiny part in reducing the heartache that’s being caused around the globe. True, COL is a UK initiative, but its impact is felt way beyond just our little country. The ICR works closely with cancer research organisations around the world – knowledge is shared and applied for the benefit of patients everywhere.

I am always humbled when our annual COL campaign kicks off and we get incredible feedback and sponsorship from as far-flung places as Australia, Asia and, of course, North America and the US specifically. Like the City of Hope institute in California that OPI also passionately supports, the research that our fundraising finances – in some small measure – is for the greater good of all. I am grateful that so many executives and companies realise that and dig deep in whatever measure they can. Thank you!

Last year, Michael Morris, formerly with TriMega, walked with the OPI team in the mountains of the Lake District, testifying to the international appeal of the event. This year, another well-known industry executive is coming with us – Chris Exner, who has recently joined OPI as Chief Commercial Officer. Many of the 120 trekkers will know Chris and what better way to welcome him back to our industry than while raising money at the same time.

Chris, incidentally, will also be taking part in COL’s sister event, the Ride of Life, in early September. It’s another fundraising opportunity, thanks to COL organiser Graeme Chapman and Durable UK’s Sean Starkey.

I would urge anyone to get involved with COL – the blisters and sores will heal very quickly. The pride in having contributed just that little bit will remain for much longer.