A group of passionate volunteers in Shropshire celebrated a hugely successful first year of fundraising for dementia research by visiting a laboratory to see the kind of pioneering work they are helping to fund.

The members of the Alzheimer’s Research UK Shropshire Fundraising Group, who have raised more than £20,000, enjoyed a tour of a laboratory at Aston University on Monday (21 May) as part of their first anniversary celebrations, which coincide with Dementia Action Week (21-27 May).

Their top fundraising events included an open garden event, which raised more than £3,500; an open day at Stokesay Court celebrating the 10-year anniversary of the release of award-winning wartime film, Atonement, which raised over £1,000; and September and Christmas events at Salop Leisure, near Shrewsbury, which raised nearly £2,000. They even had a Stars Wars stormtrooper join them at a collection at Sainsbury’s in Oswestry, which helped them raise more than £500.

On Friday (18 May) they turned Newport town centre orange with a collection supported by local businesses which decked out their shop fronts in the charity’s main colour.

The group have also helped spread the word about dementia and the importance of research throughout the county, inspiring others to get involved. As a result of the group’s work, Alzheimer’s Research UK became the nominated charity for last year’s Posh Frocks Charity Dinner in Telford, which raised more than £2,000, and more than £4,000 in match funding was donated to the charity by Google via Benevity.

Group leader Katie Foster, whose dad died with Alzheimer’s in 2007, said: “The first year of the Shropshire fundraising group has been totally astounding in so many ways.

“Our view is to always put the ‘fun’ into fundraising so that it is a real pleasure to raise money to help scientists across the country work on finding treatments for dementia.

“Our group is pretty small so we’d love more people to join us.

“Dementia is an awful condition which destroys not only the individual living with it but affects their families and friends too.

“My dad died of Alzheimer’s. It was heartbreaking to watch him fade away. A man who used to love chess, difficult crosswords, music and dance and his granddaughters, gradually disappeared to the point where he thought he was back in the prisoner of war camp where he spent five years after being captured defending Dunkirk in 1940.”

Dr Eric Hill, Programme Director for MSc Stem Cells and Regenerative Medicine at Aston University, hosted the group on the lab tour where they learnt about some of the pioneering work being undertaken, including stem cell research and how fruit flies and worms are being used to study Alzheimer’s disease.

Dr Hill said: “We were delighted to host the Shropshire fundraising group.

“This group have raised a remarkable amount of money for dementia research. Through the hard work and determination of such dedicated groups we will one day defeat dementia.”

Alzheimer’s Research UK regional groups play a crucial part in the fight against dementia, which currently affects more than 850,000 people across the UK. The charity powers world-class studies focusing on prevention, diagnosis and treatments for dementia and has funded 49 research projects in the Midlands, providing grants totalling more than £4.1m.

Lucy Squance, Director of Supporter Led Fundraising at Alzheimer’s Research UK, said: “The Shropshire fundraising group have had a fantastic first year and we’ve been blown away by their passion and commitment.

“We can’t thank them enough for raising thousands of pounds for world-class dementia research and being wonderful advocates for Alzheimer’s Research UK.

“Raising £20,000 in their first year is truly incredible and something they can be very proud of. Their efforts are vital in helping us to create a world free from the fear, harm and heartbreak of dementia.”

For information about the group’s upcoming events and activities, like their Facebook page at www.facebook.com/ARUKShropshire and follow them on Twitter – @ARUKShropshire

New members are always welcome to the group. For more information about volunteering for Alzheimer’s Research UK contact Zoe Baggott, Regional Fundraising Officer for the West Midlands, on 07469 852501 or email zoe.baggott@alzheimersresearchuk.org

For further information about Alzheimer’s Research UK visit www.alzheimersresearchuk.org