THE UK’s largest orthodontic laboratory has donated £1,000 to The Sir Bobby Robson Foundation as a thank you for the ongoing treatment one of its directors is receiving.

The company also donated £1,000 to the Red Sky Foundation which buys life-saving equipment for local hospitals and communities.

Graeme Winyard is Technical Director at Sunderland-based Ashford Orthodontics and has been having regular treatment for a brain tumour at The Sir Bobby Robson Centre, part of the Northern Centre for Cancer Care at the Freeman Hospital in Newcastle.

Graeme, one of three directors at hugely successful Ashford, was diagnosed with a brain lesion over the summer – on the day the Ashford directors were signing a major contract.

“I hadn’t felt well when I was driving in to sign the deal, and then had pins and needles in my left hand and struggled picking things up. Later that day it hadn’t got any better so I had to call an ambulance and I was taken to Sunderland Royal Hospital, where I had a CT scan and I got the results within hours,” said Graeme.

“A lesion was diagnosed, but because of Covid restrictions I couldn’t be with my wife despite getting the terrible news. Sadly, I think this has been a common occurrence for families during the pandemic,” he added.

Within two weeks of his diagnosis, Graeme had a consultation with a surgeon at Newcastle’s RVI, and days later had an operation to reduce the tumour. He was then referred to The Sir Bobby Robson Centre where he received the maximum dosage of radiotherapy and where he is continuing his chemotherapy and steroid treatment.

“I had to go into the Centre for treatment every week day for six weeks, so got to know the staff there really well – they’re all fantastic and I’ve had the best treatment anybody could possibly get.

“The support I’ve had from the Ashford team has been amazing and I’m very grateful to them all. It has been so positive and helped me enormously,” Graeme added.

Sean Thompson, Managing Director at Ashford, said: “Graeme is hugely popular at work, everyone loves him and our donation to the Sir Bobby Robson Foundation was our way of saying thank you to them for taking such good care of a massively important figure in our team.

“We were delighted Graeme and his family were able to come into work to judge our Christmas tree competition, giving him the chance to catch up with his friends and colleagues. The round of applause and cheering he got when he walked in was testament to how popular he is.

“2020 has been a difficult year for everyone, but particularly for Graeme and his family and it’s been great to finish the year on a positive note by donating to a charity which has been a Godsend to one of our own,” he added.

The judging and catch-up took place in what will be Ashford’s expanded laboratory – the company snapped up a huge unit next to its Southwick base and is currently converting it into a new, socially-distanced and Covid secure lab space for its growing workforce. With the addition, Ashford will double its orthodontic laboratory size.

Ashford also donated £1,000 to the Red Sky Foundation,a regular beneficiary of the company’s generosity.

The foundation was launched in 2016 by Sergio Petrucci and his wife Emma, and was initially intended to be a one-off fundraising event to thank the Freeman Hospital unit which saved their daughter’s life.

Since then, it has gone from strength to strength and has raised hundreds of thousands of pounds to help fund vital equipment including a unique organ care transplant system for the Children’s Heart Unit at the Freeman, and heart echo scanners for Sunderland Royal and James Cook Hospital in Teesside.

“The foundation funds life-saving equipment and we’ve supported Sergio and his team for several years now,” said Sean.

“We’re very grateful to the Ashford team for their continuing support, it’s very much appreciated,” said Sergio.

Ashford Orthodontics was established in 2001 and became a limited company with the addition of directors Craig Stevens and Graeme. It is now the largest orthodontic laboratory in the UK, employing almost 70 people at its Sunderland HQ.

The firm manufactures bespoke orthodontic appliances and has an extensive client base stretching across the UK and Europe to Australia and New Zealand.