A Collection of Lifesaving Figurines

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Rachael Mooney, son Jack Mooney and Mike Carter, consultant neurosurgeon at Bristol Children's Hospital *
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Rachael Mooney, son Jack Mooney and Mike Carter, consultant neurosurgeon at Bristol Children's Hospital *

Collector:

1. A person who collects things of a specified type, professionally or as a hobby.
2. A lifesaver?  


To an outsider Jack Mooney is an ordinary, happy 9-year-old boy. Except, hidden behind his smile, Jack has gone through far more in his 9 years than anyone should have to go through in their whole lives.
 
Diagnosed with a brain tumour when he was barely 5 years old, he has suffered ongoing seizures throughout both the day and night, and as a result felt continuously tired. This coupled with the maximum strength drugs he was on, meant he was distant from his family and often showed anger to those around him.
 
If you were able to do something to improve the quality of life for someone like Jack, wouldn’t you?
 
Well, what if helping could be as simple as building up a collection of something that you loved, through an organisation such as  The Grand Appeal’s collector’s club, which has hosted auctions through eBay over the years. 
Antique Rose, Cath Kidston's Gromit design *
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Antique Rose, Cath Kidston's Gromit design *

What is the Grand Appeal?

If you have been in London or Bristol over the last couple of years, you may have noticed Gromit and more recently Shaun the Sheep, sculptures pop up across the cities. But, did you know that the Grand Appeal are behind the sculptures, that add a touch of colour and become a photo opportunities for residents and tourists alike? Not only that, but the money they raise funds life-saving technology for the children’s hospitals.
 
Since 1995, The Grand Appeal has raised over £30 million to transform the lives of sick babies and children at Bristol Children’s Hospital and the Special Care Baby Unit at St Michael’s Hospital.

Nicola Masters, Director of the Appeal, explains: “The Grand Appeal provides ground-breaking facilities at the Hospital, including the south of England’s only 3T MRI scanner and intra-operative scanning suite, which has revolutionised the treatment of children with neurological conditions requiring highly complex surgery”

Amongst various fundraising efforts, a huge amount of this money was raised through the ‘Gromit Unleashed’ arts trail in 2013, and is now continuing with ‘Shaun in the City’ this year. 
Two girls from Australia join the trail - Ship Shape and Bristol Fashion (location, Clifton Suspension Bridge) *
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Two girls from Australia join the trail - Ship Shape and Bristol Fashion (location, Clifton Suspension Bridge) *

Gromit Unleashed

Gromit Unleashed saw Wallace’s loveable canine sidekick decorate the streets of Bristol in the summer of 2013, forming a public arts trail of 80 giant sculptures, each individually decorated by artists and celebrities.
 
After 10 weeks on display in iconic locations they went to auction and raised £2.3 million for the Bristol Children’s Hospital. Since then, the trail has continued to raise further life-saving funds (around £5 million to date!) through the Gromit Unleashed merchandise, including the hugely popular figurines .
 
The trail attracted 1.2 million visitors to Bristol and as well as raising millions for the Bristol Children’s Hospital, it also generated £123 million for the local economy.
 
Nicola said, “It attracted attention from all over the globe, and the charity was inundated with requests to host another event – not just from Bristol, but from all over the world.”
 
So, in 2014 The Grand Appeal licensed a subsidiary ‘Gromit Unleashed’ event in Hong Kong, ‘The Greatest Dog Show On Earth’. The exhibition featured 70 brand new Gromit designs and all proceeds raised went to the charity. However, Nicola said: “we were delighted to take trails to London and Hong Kong, but with our close links to Aardman and the special relationship we have with our supporters in Bristol, it will always be our home.”
 
Now, two years after the first trail, they are doing it all again with Shaun the Sheep. 
Gromit Unleashed Official Video
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Gromit Unleashed Official Video

Shaun in the City

It has been a baa-rilliant couple of years for Shaun, who was last year voted the nation’s all-time favourite BBC children’s TV character in a Radio Times poll. Now, not only has he starred in his very own movie earlier this year, but 2015 also saw 120 individually designed Shaun the Sheep statues spread across London and Bristol, for his own Grand Appeal trail. Alongside artists, designers and celebrities, creator Nick Park, has designed one himself.  
 
The trail, which ended in August, flocked to Covent Garden at the end of September, where they joined the London sheep on display for four days. They are now awaiting the grand auction which will take place on the 8th October, which will see Bargain Hunt’s Tim Wonnacott selling each Shaun. The funds raised from the 70 Bristol sculptures will be going to The Grand Appeal, the Bristol Children’s Hospital Charity and funds raised from the 50 London sculptures benefitting Wallace and Gromit’s Children’s Charity, supporting children in hospitals across the UK.   
Shaun the Sheep 'Lenny' figurine *
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Shaun the Sheep 'Lenny' figurine *

Why Gromit and Shaun?

Nicola tells us that the Appeal has a longstanding relationship with Aardman, the creators of Wallace, Gromit and Shaun the Sheep. Whilst Gromit and Shaun are internationally-loved characters with fans all over the world, Nicola said: “There is an incredible amount of love for the characters by the people of Bristol, the home of Aardman.” As a result, “this triggered a huge amount of support from the local community for these locally-grown characters, in support of an important local cause.” 
Gromit Unleashed *
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Gromit Unleashed *

The Collector’s Club

Alongside the sculptures dotted around the cities, the Appeal sell them in miniature figurines, so fans can take their favourite home with them. Due to this, they now have a collector’s club with more than 1000 members from all over the world, including America, Hong Kong, Dubai and Australia. The biggest spender among the collector’s club members has spent more than £3500 through the online store and the average amount spent per collector is around £500.
 
Nicola explained: “we set up our Collector's Club in response to the huge public demand for Gromit and Shaun figurines, of late. At the peak of ‘Gromit Unleashed’ our shop at The Mall was overwhelmed with collectors, who queued in their thousands from the early hours, waiting for hours to get their paws on the latest releases.” Around 20% of the club purchases every single Gromit figurine, including a UK-based super fan that has all 30. 
Yeoman of the Baaa-rd *
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Yeoman of the Baaa-rd *

Gromit Super Fan

This UK based super fan has been collecting Gromit memorabilia for more than 20 years after watching The Wrong Trousers sparked his interest. He now has over 6500 Gromit items from all over the world, including his 30 figurines from The Grand Appeal. After a fierce bidding war he also spent £50,000 on the full-sized 5ft “Gromit Unleashed” sculpture Newshound, which Nick Park designed for the trail in 2013, and is the only one to feature Wallace and Gromit together. Just after the trail he also bought a number of items during the special Gromit art auction that the appeal held with eBay!
 
These collectors and super fans, partaking in something that they love, are also contributing to technology that will save the lives of countless children. 
Newshound Gromit by Nick Park *
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Newshound Gromit by Nick Park *

Saving Lives

Without The Grand Appeal and its collectors, life could have turned out very differently for Jack Mooney. With medication not working the only option was surgery, but the operation and location of the tumour threatened Jack’s speech, movement and sense of smell.
 
Luckily for Jack the auctioning of the Gromit’s provided a £1.5million 3T MRI scanner and intraoperative scanning suite for the hospital. This allows brains and spines to be scanned in far greater detail, and for patient’s brains to be viewed in real time during surgery.  

Mike Carter, consultant neurosurgeon at Bristol Children’s Hospital said: “This groundbreaking new piece of equipment gives us the capability to conduct complex procedures that two years ago would have been inconceivable. We would never have been able to bring [it] to the hospital without the support of the Grand Appeal.” The hospital is the second in the UK and one of only a few in Europe to have the technology, placing Bristol Children’s Hospital neurosurgery among the best in the world.
 
Jack’s mum, Rachael, said: “I never knew anything about the Grand Appeal before Jack was going for his operation, but without it Jack’s life would be very different. He would be going for further operations that could have caused irreversible damage to areas of his brain”
 
Instead, Jack went into surgery and the tumour was completely removed in one 13 and a half hour procedure. Not only did he benefit from this new technology, he was the first one to do so. His mum said, “I didn’t realise that they were training whilst operating on him, but I had no worries at all. I had complete trust in the surgeons and the new machines.”
 
Rachael explains that since the operation “we are a family again” and she thinks it is “amazing” that collectors were able to contribute to this. “The Grand Appeal actually sent him a Shaun figurine, and he has painted the top of its head as a brain.” She explains that Jack and his three siblings are huge fans of Wallace, Gromit and Shaun. Rachael said, “They love the Shaun the Sheep movie, and have been watching it on repeat all through the summer holidays”
 
Far from having to face further operations, Jack was able to be discharged from hospital only four days after his operation and is now a happy, healthy nine-year-old. Rachael explains how he often says, “before I felt weird and found life hard, but now I feel good again!”



*All images credit of: Wallace & Gromit’s Children’s Foundation. Charity no. 1043603 Shaun the Sheep & Shaun in the City ©& ™ Aardman Animations Ltd 2015

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