Belper’s community spirit goes above and beyond, says MP

Pauline Latham, Conservative MP for Mid Derbyshire.
Pauline Latham, Conservative MP for Mid Derbyshire.

I have written before about my admiration of the community spirit of Belper and never is that more in evidence that during the Belper Games which return next month.

The games were the concept of Nick Wheeler and his wife Penny who suffered two terrible diseases Systemic Scleroderma and Pulmonary Fibrosis.

Belper Games fun day

Belper Games fun day

I tried to help Penny when she was fighting to persuade the National Health Service to fund a drug to extend her life.

Her family and friends had already raised enough to purchase a portable oxygen concentrator which meant she could leave the house without relying on heavy oxygen cylinders.

Unfortunately, because the effectiveness of the drug, Rituximab, was not clear, the NHS would not provide funding but, in adversity, the Wheelers, backed by the community began intense fund-raising.

And how brilliantly the people of Belper responded with the It’s A Knockout-style Belper Games.

Sadly, Penny died in 2012 but the games still go on and charities continue to benefit.

I admire the fact that Penny’s Fund, of which I know she would be hugely proud, has developed two very different aims.

It states clearly that it sets out to bring the Belper people together for a “good old-fashioned laugh regardless of age, gender, physical ability etc.”

This is the type of sentiment which is so typical of Belper – fostering the type of community spirit which is too rarely seen in today’s Britain.

The second target is to provide funds for three small but deserving charities - The Scleroderma Society, The Pulmonary Fibrosis Trust and Ataxia UK.

The Belper Games is an example of how those from the town and its surrounds punch way above their weight in terms of social impact.

Running between July 20 and 22, it is now alongside live music, film screenings and a beer and cider festival.

But it is far from the only community event being held throughout the summer.

More on this subject in my Belper News column next week.