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‘Virtual Extravaganza’ raises thousands of pounds for Harrow boy looking for stem cell donor

A marathon 12-hour virtual extravaganza held on Friday 8th March raised £8,400 for the Anthony Nolan charity.


The fundraiser encouraged 165 registrations from much needed diverse backgrounds to register as stem cell donors. The headlining act at this family-friendly extravaganza was award winning British singing sensation, Navin Kundra, who has had six #1 hit singles in the Asian charts and has performed for the British Royal Family.


The event was organised for a four-year-old boy from Harrow, Veer Gudhka, who is in need of a stem cell transplant. For this a generous stem cell donor is needed. His parents have set up an appeal, HelpVeerNow, to encourage more people to register as donors, particularly in Asian communities.


The event’s core objective was to raise awareness of the need for more BAME (Black Asian and Minority Ethnic) stem cell donors, to increase the chances of finding a matching donor for Veer, and others like him. The event drove home three key messages: REGISTER as a stem cell donor; SHARE Veer’s story; DONATE money.


Radhika Maya, a Bollywood entertainer and choreographer, organised and hosted the event on behalf of the family, after being moved by Veer’s story. She stated that “The success of this event was entirely down to all the talented artists and businesses who contributed and the generosity of the public who supported and donated to this worthy cause.”


Up to March 2020 the HelpVeerNow campaign managed to add nearly 1500 new donors to the UK stem cell donor registers, via a social media and press campaign and swab drives held at various community events. However when Britain, went into the Corona virus lockdown, it initially seemed the campaign would stall when it should have been gathering momentum.


Thanks to the vision of Radhika Maya, the lockdown created an opportunity to revive the HelpVeerNow campaign. She reached out to people within her network and formed a team of online entertainers for Veer’s Virtual Extravaganza, a full day of varied online sessions including a range of health and wellbeing sessions, informative talks and fun filled family activities. There was literally something for everyone.


Business owners based in Veer’s own hometown of Harrow provided many of these activities too! Rounding off the amazing day, there was an opportunity to dance the night away to nonstop music by Divine Musiq’s Director DJ Lil Amit. He had setup an extravagant visual production to create a live party atmosphere for all the viewers.


Veer’s mother Kirpa Gudhka said: “A whole day dedicated to Veer – isn’t that what all four-year-old’s want?!” Veer certainly found the energy to enjoy all twelve hours of the day, singing, dancing, zumbaing and karate kicking along with the session leaders, though he snuck in a quick nap during the makeup tutorial.


Navin Kundra’s live performance proved very popular with the viewing public. Navin said: “Hopefully we’ll be able to get Veer, and Shahera, who is also looking for a stem cell donor, a match and they can live a full life just like they deserve to.”


Only 2% of the UK population is currently on the stem cell register. 69% of patients can find the best possible match from a stranger, but this drops dramatically to 20% if you’re a patient from a black, Asian or ethnic minority background – like Veer or three-year-old Shahera. The HelpVeerNow campaign is campaigning to help diversify the stem cell donor register.


In the midst of lockdown, Veer’s Virtual Extravaganza entertained thousands of people and managed to spread the campaign message, at a time when other matters are totally dominating the headlines and social media feeds.


Veer’s father Nirav Gudhka was overwhelmed by the success of the online extravaganza, saying: “Radhika has taken lockdown and turned it on its head. She has created a template for future fundraising and entertainment events.”


VVE had strong support from the very inspiring Peter McCleave, a patient who has been given 7 years to live unless he finds a genetic match. Peter founded the campaign 10,000 donors which was set up with the aim of registering more people globally to the stem cell charity.


The event was a reminder of the great ongoing work of charities like Anthony Nolan, who must continue their donor recruitment and donor processing efforts throughout the lockdown period.


All the day’s live streams are still available to watch back on the Veer’s Virtual Extravaganza Facebook group. To find out more about the campaign, and about registering as a donor, please head to www.helpveernow.org.

(Featured Image: Veer and his sister watching the extravaganza)