The British Polio Fellowship is delighted to announce that celebrated QVC presenter, Julia Roberts, has not only agreed to become an Ambassador for the charity, but is already making a splash by donating some of the profits of her book to British Polio Fellowship. Julia is organising a fundraising swimming event on 7 July to help launch British Polio Month 2013, with Olympic Paralympian swimming hero James Crisp confirming he will also be taking part.
Julia is best known to the UK public as the face of QVC, having been a founder presenter with the channel for twenty years, although her varied career has included being on the cover of the Be-Ro cookery book in 1966, to performing in A Song for Europe and TV appearances on popular shows like The Price Is Right. Less well known was that Julia contracted Polio when aged just 14 months. Julia recently publicly ‘came out’ about her Polio, to give people the confidence to do the same, while being determined to play her part in helping others like her.
“We are both excited and delighted to welcome Julia on board,” said Ted Hill MBE, CEO of the British Polio Fellowship. “Far from being a token celebrity, Juila has her own ideas on how to help those living with the effects of Polio and Post Polio Syndrome (PPS). We are extremely grateful to Julia for donating some of the profits from her book, while the swimming event will be a fantastic way to start British Polio Month in July and we are all looking forward to it.”
Juila used swimming to help her build and strengthen the badly wasted muscles down her left side that Polio had left her with, and her autobiography, ‘One Hundred Lengths of the Pool’, reflects on this close relationship with swimming as a positive coping strategy. A swimming event is the perfect way to raise awareness and funds for the ongoing work of British Polio Fellowship to help all those with Polio and PPS in the UK.
Commenting on her new role as Ambassador for British Polio Fellowship, Julia said: “People think that Polio is no longer a problem in this country, so I’m helping the charity to raise awareness of the facts. Even though there have been no new cases of Polio in the UK, many thousands of families like mine live with the after effects of Polio every day. There are over 120,000 people in the UK living with Polio and PPS, and the British Polio Fellowship does great work in supporting sufferers, as well as their families and friends. I am particularly interested in helping the charity raise awareness of PPS in the health professionals’ community, as an early diagnosis of PPS is critical to a good care plan to help people cope.
“I am proud to be an Ambassador for the British Polio Fellowship and to be able to play a key role in British Polio Month in July,” explained Julia. “I am one of the lucky ones, I am a Polio survivor. I was wearing a calliper when I left hospital on Christmas Eve 1957 and my parents were told I always would. They wouldn’t accept that, and while swimming strengthened my leg, I made excuses if people noticed my limp. Five years ago I decided I didn’t want to make excuses any more. It was not my fault I had contracted Polio.
“I ‘came out’ and it was truly liberating. Now I’m looking forward to taking the next step and helping the charity make British Polio Month a success for all those like myself living with Polio and PPS.”
Already confirmed as taking part in Julia’s swimming event in July is British sporting hero, multi-medal winning Paralympian James Crisp, who added to his considerable tally by winning silver at London 2012. James is also an Ambassador for the British Polio Fellowship, having contracted Polio as a result of vaccine damage. James lost the use of his left leg. Like Julia, it has not stopped him fulfilling his dreams. He swam to Paralympic glory again in 2012, still finding the time to help the British Polio Fellowship with its National Indoor Games in Leicester in March, and now lending his support to this latest swimming event on 7 July.
“Julia kept her Polio a secret and no one ever realised she was one of the over 120,000 people living with Polio and PPS in the UK today; but not everyone can succeed on their own, and that’s why we’re here to help,” added Ted Hill. “While inspiring figures like Julia demonstrate there is hope, The British Polio Fellowship offers practical help and information to those who need our support. James and Julia’s involvement will be invaluable in ensuring the events this year will provide those living with Polio and PPS with the recognition and understanding they deserve.”
Full details of the charity swimming event on 7 July, together with announcements concerning other British Polio Month events in July, will be available on the charity’s website shortly. The charity is also preparing for its 75th anniversary celebrations in 2014.