Five minutes with...Paul Verrico
This week we catch up with Points of Light Prime Minister’s Award Winner Paul Verrico from Epworth…
Tell us about you?
I’m 43, have two children, Lucia and Alessandro, I’m engaged to the lovely Gemma and I live in Epworth, which I’ve called home since 2004.
I’m a Partner and Solicitor-Advocate in the Environment, Health and Safety practice at Eversheds Sutherland, a global law firm. I help clients when things go wrong; I manage crises and appear in courts up and down the country representing the interests of those clients. I’m currently representing a client in the inquests following the Manchester Arena explosion that tragically killed 22 people and injured many more. I also help organisations improve their safety performance by implementing new policies and procedures. I write articles for the mass media and occasionally appear on radio talk shows as an expert on safety. Prior to being a lawyer, I was an academic and I started life as a window cleaner. I still hold an academic position as a Visiting Fellow of the University of South Wales with a research interest in the law of manslaughter.
I also set up the Team Verrico charity in 2013.
Tell us about that?
In 2012, my wife, Anna, was diagnosed with triple negative breast cancer when our children were 6 months and 2 years. We went through a false dawn of remission which was followed by an aggressive return of the disease, leading to her untimely death just 12 months later. Determined to mark Anna’s legacy, I asked my best friends to contribute their skills and expertise; the 5 trustees are all drawn from professional services – 4 lawyers and 1 HR – meaning that decision making is focused in a volunteer led context with low overheads on achieving the mission.
Not a particularly catchy name?
Team Verrico was initially going to be 6 friends (including Anna) running the local half marathon to commemorate her return to health. We had some pink T shirts made up and Anna started training as soon as she finished chemotherapy the first time. Obviously, the disease’s return ended that but that was the germination of the idea for the charity – we didn’t like big charities with huge executive pay cheques and wanted to create something where people didn’t draw salaries. That same race is now known of as the Anna Verrico half marathon and takes place in Epworth annually.
What does the charity do?
Having cancer is a long, hard and mostly joyless journey. After an initial diagnosis, those affected enter a dark tunnel of grief, guilt, anger, denial, fear, isolation and anxiety. Colliding together in a hideous kaleidoscope of blind terror, the quest to get better is a journey filled with monsters, cliffs and boogeymen. Team Verrico’s mission is to fight alongside those afflicted to achieve positive outcomes, bringing hope where there is none, creating ‘more tomorrows.’ This is developed via 3 main spheres of activity:
The most important is to support men and women who have children under the age of 18 who face a rare or hard to treat cancer who are sent for private consultations with the leading oncologists and surgeons in the UK – this often results in a change to treatment plans. The charity also fund genetic testing and other scientifically proven methods of treating the disease.
Sphere 2 is practical assistance. The charity supports those affected by cancer, including the patient and their family by counselling through the diagnosis and beyond, also offering support such as childcare on chemotherapy days or a cleaner to help during intensive treatment; hotel stays for a spouse where a family member is receiving treatment hundreds of miles away or food parcels in the immediate aftermath of a death.
Sphere 3 is research. Team Verrico supports niche research projects which do not receive funding from Cancer Research as they either focus on rare cancers or are too small to attract funding. The charity currently has projects running at University of Sheffield, University of Brighton and Cardiff University.
And with Covid-19, that must be difficult for the charity?
It is, because a lot of fundraising events are cancelled and people need us more than ever. We have been delivering food parcels provided by The Pantry in Misterton to local cancer patients (appropriately socially distancing, of course) and hand sanitiser for those travelling for treatment.
What about the Prime Minister’s Award?
That came out of the blue, really, and was recognition for our raising £500,000 in the first 5 years since Anna’s death. It’s something to be proud of. I’m trying to run 26 marathons (A-Z) in my 40s to continue that fundraising. I’m often seen pounding the streets of the Isle of Axholme at the weekends!
With all that going on, what do you do with any spare time you have?
In 2018 I bought an old B & B in Epworth Town Centre and with the help of friends have been working hard to turn it back into a family home – Epworth is the home of the Wesleys and it’s the old Wesley Manse with a lot of history attached to it. As with any project, we are hopelessly over budget but I keep promising myself it will be worth it in the end! I also have an old T4 VW camper van and we tend to travel a lot in that – the kids particularly enjoy music festivals. Buddhafields is their favourite! Last year, Gemma and I were fortunate enough to attend Glastonbury in the van. Alessandro is a keen runner, so most Saturday mornings see us at a local parkrun!
To learn more about Team Verrico check out www.Teamverrico.org