Sparks: Children's Medical Research Charity

Having completed an exciting year as President of Sparks in 2010, Sir Geoff has continued to build on his close relationship with the charity. Even before being President, Sir Geoff had a long-held association with Sparks and this has continued ever since.

"I was delighted to be Sparks president," Sir Geoff commented on taking up this role. "Sparks aim is to help more babies to be born healthy, more children grow up healthy and it's hard to think of a better goal than that. I want to do all I can to help them hit their target."

Sparks was founded in 1960 by the charity fundraiser, Duncan Guthrie, who had been inspired to raise money for medical research after his own daughter, Janet, contracted poliomyelitis.

Guthrie enlisted the help of some of the leading sports personalities of the day, including star footballer Jimmy Hill and cricket legend Jim Laker, to help raise funds for much needed research into childhood diseases. The aim was to give all children the chance to live a full and active life - just like their sporting heroes.

Sir Geoff has attended numerous events resulting in a great fundraising record, over 400,000 raised in his year as President and the total has continued to rise. The money, as always, is set to benefit the thousands of children in need but, for Geoff, one abiding memory will always be a tiny baby called Riley Joyce.

After suffering oxygen starvation during birth, Riley was delivered by emergency C-section, but without a pulse and the ability to breathe independently. He was given only a 50/50 chance of surviving without permanent brain damage.

But thanks to an historic intervention using a combination of full body cooling and a rare gas called Xenon, Riley Joyce not only survived but thrived. His parents, David and Sarah, are now looking forward to him growing up as a perfectly normal child.

"Meeting Riley and his parents at their home in Bath and also meeting Sparks-funded cooling pioneer, Professor Marianne Thoresen, and her Bristol-based team was a very special experience." said Sir Geoff. "Journalists often ask me if anything can beat scoring the winner in a World Cup Final, I've told them that helping children to be born healthy and grow up healthy does. Baby Riley and the joy on his parents' faces when they took him home, healthy and happy, is the living proof."

Charity and Fundaraising

In addition to his work with Sparks, Sir Geoff sometimes gets involved with a few specially selected charitable events and fundraisers. Below are links to the latest news on other charitable causes involving Sir Geoff:

  • NSPCC:

    Sir Geoff takes on starring role at Coventry summer ball.

  • Brainwave:

    Sir Geoff kicks it off for Brainwave