Started as a way to raise awareness of rare neuromuscular conditions, The Big Sunflower Project is now in its eighth year. Toni Abram who started the initiative tells us about the project and how a donation from The Co-operative Bank's Customer Donation Fund has helped to secure its future.
"In 1998 my father and I were diagnosed with centronuclear myopathy, a rare inherited neuromuscular disease. Having been diagnosed as adults, we learned that we have a mild form of the condition, which is one of several different types of the myopathy that affect both adults and children."
"In 2001, as part of a web design class I was doing, I set up The Information Point for Centronuclear and Myotubular Myopathy. People soon began to contact me and it wasn't long before a global community that connects families and medical professionals began to grow."
"It was the tenth anniversary of the website in 2011 and I decided to do something to celebrate the centronuclear and myotubular community that now exists. I'd used images of sunflowers on the website because I love the way they grow to such dizzy heights, as if they're on a mission to touch the sky and nothing can hold them back, and I realised that popping a seed into a pot and nurturing it for a few weeks was something most people could do, whatever their physical ability. This meant that those diagnosed with centronuclear and myotubular myopathy could take part too and The Big Sunflower Project was born."
"It was a lot of work to get the project off the ground but it was worth it because over the years it's been joined by so many people from across the UK and Europe, and from further afield such as the USA, Dubai and Ecuador. One of the hardest things was learning how to successfully grow sunflowers - a skill which still occasionally lets me down thanks to slugs and the northern British climate."
"The donation we received from The Co-operative Bank's Customer Donation Fund will go towards sending seeds and information packs to more people than ever. It's such a joy to be able to share photos of the sunflowers grown by project participants, a simple act that brings our community together and raises awareness of these rare conditions."
The Co-operative Bank's Customer Donation Fund supports Community Directplus customers with their special projects and fundraising. Our Community Directplus account gives registered charities, community interest companies, co-operatives and credit unions an ethical way to bank for free.
If you’re a Community Directplus account holder, you can apply for up to £1,000 from the Customer Donation Fund to support special projects and fundraising activities by completing the form below.
The closing dates for applications are in March and September. We assess applications in April and October.