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26 April, 2016 - 16:04 By Tony Quested

Entrepreneurs’ son takes on Polar challenge to aid Cambridge medical research

Ben Edwards

A 14-year-old Cambridge boy is undertaking an historic fundraising challenge for medical research as he joins the only British team attempting to circumnavigate the North Pole in one season this summer.

If successful with the June foray, Ben Edwards – son of Cambridge technology entrepreneurs Steve and Roz Edwards – will become the youngest person ever to have sailed the North East and North West passages.

Ben aims to raise £20,000 through this challenge to support an innovative research project into paediatric gastroenterology taking place at Addenbrooke’s Hospital – the only place in Europe to be undertaking this type of research to benefit children.

Ben was just 13 when he was admitted to Addenbrooke’s Hospital with suspected appendicitis and spent two weeks as an inpatient. Sadly, the cause of his now long-term inflammation of the gut remains a mystery.

Given his ongoing medical condition, Ben has decided to raise money for the research into paediatric gastroenterology taking place at Addenbrooke’s Hospital, headed up by Dr Matthias Zilbauer, honorary consultant in paediatric gastroenterology.

The outcome of this research is to gain a better understanding of bowel inflammation in children, which is the direct cause of symptoms in diseases such as Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD), including Crohn’s disease, for which there is currently no cure.
 
Dr Zilbauer said: “More and more children under the age of 10 are presenting with this major, disabling, life-long disease and we are still trying to establish what causes it and why there is such an increase in younger children. We are currently working on some promising projects but research into bowel diseases of children is very poorly funded and our work relies entirely on grants from charitable sources and private donations. Ben’s pledge to support our research through fundraising is greatly appreciated.”

Ben, who recently joined the support crew when his dad Steve was part of the first British team to fly a balloon out of the North Pole, will join a crew of seven led by British explorer David Hempleman-Adams.

Last summer Ben, who has sailed for most of his life, sailed from Bristol to Svalbard, Norway, on a training exercise with David to prepare for the challenge ahead.

The crew will leave Bristol in mid-June for the four month challenge, sailing for 24 hours a day and working in pairs to undertake two four-hour watches in every 24-hour period. They must reach the North East passage before the end of July, when the ice flows will have melted sufficiently to allow access, but the clock will then be ticking for them to go around the North Pole and exit via the North West passage before it freezes again, returning to Bristol in mid-October. 

Ben said: “I want to prove that despite the fact I am in constant pain I can still do this. I won’t let it stop me achieving my goal and if I can inspire other young people to think the same way, whatever personal challenges they face, then it will all be worth it.”  

Ben is also using this challenge to promote his role as a Youth Ambassador for Wicked Weather Watch, a charity set-up by David Hempleman-Adams to inform young people about climate change.

Wicked Weather Watch will follow the Polar Ocean Challenge, feeding real-time data from the Arctic back to schools in the UK – a unique opportunity to bring the issue to life in the classroom. The personal experiences of Ben and the rest of the crew will be an inspiration for children.

People interested in sponsoring Ben are being given a unique opportunity to buy a space on flags and banners that will accompany Ben on his epic challenge around the North Pole, that is expected to attract national and possibly international media coverage.

Company logos, names of individuals or organisations can be printed onto the flags and banners, which will also be displayed on the boat while it is in port in the run-up to the departure date and at the media launch. Sponsorship ranges from £250 to £1,000 depending upon the logo size chosen. On the boat’s return, sponsors will receive their piece of flag or banner, together with a signed photo of Ben and David, to keep as a memento of this historic achievement.

To find out more about how you can sponsor Ben and help generations of children living with distressing bowel disease, please contact Addenbrooke’s Charitable Trust (ACT) on 01223 217757 or email fundraising [at] act4addenbrookes.org.uk

If you would like to make a separate donation towards Ben’s challenge please go to www.act4addenbrookes.org.uk/supporter/BensPolarChallenge

Ben’s parents formerly owned Geneva Technology, which was a telecommunications software business based in Cambridge.

Since selling the company they have had a number of business and charitable interests, and founded the website bestcourse4me.com – a not for profit website giving students information on the real outcomes from university education. That is in terms of the jobs and salaries that graduates move onto according to their degree subject and institution, and the A levels held by students on university courses according to subject and institution, to help students garner the information they need to make informed decisions on their university choice.

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