Ulyssians have always been generous people and right from the start have opened their hearts to worthy causes. At the Wagga AGM in 1997 it was decided that in the absence of a specific alternative, the Ulysses Club would designate research into arthritis as its own preferred charity. The impetus for the choice came from the death at only 72 the previous year of Jo Dearnley who finally lost a 20-year battle against rheumatoid arthritis Because arthritis is so slow, insidious, painful and debilitating it does not attract the same publicity as the more obvious and ‘dramatic’ diseases, yet not only is it by far the most common cause of painful and severe handicap in this country, it can also be deadly. In its various forms it affects nearly five million Australians and accounts for more deaths than AIDS or MS, yet because the disease is so diffuse it does not attract a lot of media attention.
In the beginning with funds were passed to the Arthritis Foundation but after some internal problems and the discovery that only a minute portion was directed to research, it was decided that the Ulysses Club would channel donations directly to the front line. Consequently the club has given significant support to a number of post-graduate students in Brisbane, Sydney and Melbourne and supplied their laboratories with expensive items of equipment. As the Ulysses Club Arthritis Fund we have had progress reports from the researchers themselves and direct evidence of where our contributions are being applied.
For 2011 NatCom has agreed to take this a step further by offering a full fellowship to a brilliant research scientist, Kelly McKelvie, from Otago University in Dunedin. This calls for UCARF to commit $80,000 over the next twelve months and in return Kelly will be providing the Club with regular progress reports and updates. I hope members will have the opportunity meeting her personally at the Newcastle AGM in March. With research now moving to the forefront of genetic and molecular biology I would like to feel that the Ulysses Club was taking a lead in unlocking the secret of auto-immune diseases such as rheumatoid arthritis; in looking for a cure, not just another palliative measure.