Express & Star

Margot Martini's story can save lives with new charity

A charity in memory of inspirational toddler Margot Martini is being set up by her family with the aim of getting more than one million extra people to sign up to the UK stem cell register.


The Team Margot Foundation has the goal to get more than 1.5 million extra potential bone marrow donors to take the total to 2.5 million.

The foundation will also raise money and support the work of five charities - Great Ormond Street Hospital Children's Charity, Delete Blood Cancer UK, Anthony Nolan, Shooting Stars Chase, and Momentum.

Two-year-old Margot died in October from two rare types of leukaemia following a worldwide search for a bone marrow donor.

Margot's parents, Vicki, originally from Essington, and Yaser, went public in their search for a bone marrow donor to help save their daughter's life.

Speaking exclusively to the Express & Star, Margot's father Yaser outlined plans for 2015 which will see Team Margot in full swing over the next 12 months.

They include, establishing the Team Margot Foundation to support the work of charities close to their heart, holding the first annual international Team Margot Stem Cell and Bone Marrow Awareness Day, supporting bone marrow donor registration events across the country, and a 40-day trek across the ice caps of Greenland, named Expedition Margot.

"We see this as Margot's legacy - and we want that to continue for the sake of others," said Mr Martini.

Margot's mother Vicki, 39, grew up in Essington, Staffordshire, and has marked her first Christmas without her daughter with Yaser, 44, and sons Oscar, seven, and Rufus, six.

Now they want 2015 to be the breakthrough year so no family has to suffer the anguish they did to find a matching bone marrow donor.

Margot's mixed family background was the key difficulty in finding her a perfect match.

The family's initial goal is to help increase the number of people on the UK stem cell registry to 2.5 million. Currently there are less than one million people registered.

"Team Margot will continue with the vision that anyone who needs a bone marrow transplant has confidence in quickly finding a matching donor" said Yaser. "To do that, we need more people to join the register, especially more people with mixed race.

"The message is 'Team Margot wishes to work with you to increase the stem cell registries. Together, we are saving lives.' We are primarily about raising awareness of the urgent need for more stem cell and bone marrow donors and we hope to build on all the incredible support we have been lucky to have had.

"The Team Margot Foundation will establish our charitable status and help improve the way in which funds raised are utilised - there has already been so much superb fundraising work undertaken by Team Margot and there are so many wonderful people involved. We wish to see all monies raised being deployed in the best possible way. We currently support five charities - Great Ormond Street Hospital Children's Charity, Delete Blood Cancer UK, Anthony Nolan, Shooting Stars Chase, and Momentum - and we'll see where and how we go from there.

"Team Margot raised something over £275,000 last year, which is an unbelievable achievement.

"We now feel that we need to do something sustainable and to make Team Margot's efforts last year more than a 'one off'."

The first annual international Team Margot Stem Cell and Bone Marrow Awareness Day will take place on October 7 this year - the same day in 2013 when Margot was diagnosed with leukaemia. The day is designed to promote awareness of the need for more potential stem cell donors to join the worldwide registers, including the Anthony Nolan register here in the UK.

As Yaser and Vicki appealed for help for donors to step forward, they showed amazing bravery to go public in an ambitious hunt to find a perfect stem cell match for their daughter.

An online appeal was started to raise awareness of Margot's plight. An online video has been seen by more than 115,000 people, while Facebook group Team Margot has attracted more than 21,000 followers.

It initially led to more than 50,000 people coming forward in the UK alone to express an interest in joining the register during the Swab4Margot campaign.

Celebrities including Steve Bull, Martin Clunes and Gary Barlow backed the campaign and a mass swabbing event took place in Wolverhampton, organised by Margot's auntie Charlotte, who lives in Tettenhall.

Now Team Margot is helping support others who wish to hold donor registration events by providing a 'how to' guide and a Team Margot pack which includes photos, videos, banners, wristbands and Margot bows.

There are three events planned this month (Jan), the first in the New Year will be held at Coleridge Primary School in Highgate, London on January 17, which is also preceded by a Team Margot Blood Cancer Awareness Week starting on January 12.

Beyond that Team Margot will also be linking up with hostel company Beds and Bars who own and operate St Christopher's Inns, with a view to further growing awareness across their estate in Europe.

And then in April 2015, Expedition Margot is setting off for an epic challenge crossing Greenland's ice caps on a 40 day trek to raise awareness and funds for Delete Blood Cancer UK.

Explorer Paul Landry and adventurer and polar guide Henry Cookson are leading the team on the challenge, which was inspired by Margot.

The team aims to travel 1,800 miles over Greenland's desolate ice cap.

Margot was just 14-months-old when she was diagnosed with both Acute Lymphoblastic Leukaemia (ALL) and Acute Myeloid Leukaemia (AML) in October 2013.

After launching a huge celebrity-back campaign for a bone marrow donor a match was then discovered and Margot underwent a successful bone marrow transplant from an anonymous 22-year-old German man in February last year (2014).

Doctors declared Margot was 99 per cent certain to be disease free a month later but tragically, tests in June revealed a small amount of ALL had returned. After the second type of leukaemia, AML also returned in July, doctors told them that there was nothing more that could be done to cure Margot.

On October 27 - just over a year from the diagnosis, Vicki and Yaser revealed the two-year-old had passed away 'surrounded by those who love her' at their home in Roehampton, London.

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