Family’s Tragic Loss has Inspired a Million Smiles 

When 15-year old Richard Bowler set off for a training session with Sarisbury Sparks FC on 2nd July 2002 no-one could have foreseen the tragedy that was to unfold that evening. During the warm-up session, Rich collapsed. He’d suffered a sub-arachnoid brain haemorrhage (SAH) and, sadly, never regained consciousness.

Fundraising in his memory originally sought to raise £1,500 to purchase a pair of ‘memory’ benches, but quickly snow-balled and, in 2004, ‘Smile4Rich’ became the official face of fundraising for the Wessex Neurological Centre (WNC). Located at Southampton General Hospital, it provides acute/specialist neurological care to patients from across Hampshire, Dorset, Wiltshire, West Sussex, the Isle of Wight and the Channel Islands - a region populated by over 3 million. Each year the WNC treats around 18,000 patients for conditions such as brain haemorrhages, brain tumors, stroke, traumatic brain/spinal injuries, epilepsy, dementia, and numerous other neurological conditions.


Now known as ‘Smile4Wessex’, the charity has since raised over £1.1million to fund numerous projects that enhance the range and quality of care provided at the WNC, and research which furthers understanding of neurological conditions and their treatment. “We never cease to be amazed at the At a recent Open Day, supporters heard from leading neurosurgeons and scientists how their generosity has enabled Smile4Wessex to provide the WNC with some of the most advanced facilities and equipment available in the UK - in some cases uniquely. These include the state-of-the-art Smile4Wessex Children’s Neurosciences Ward and ‘Retreat’ Multi-Sensory Room, and cutting-edge theatre equipment such as; a revolutionary operating microscope with fluorescence imaging technology; an UltraHD 3D Endoscopic Neurosurgical Stack System; multi-channel Intra-Operative Nerve Monitoring equipment.


These and other projects have already helped to improve outcomes and/or save the lives of thousands of patients, and have made possible procedures that simply could not be safely undertaken previously.

Research funding is also helping to explore new ways to diagnose and treat neurological disease. For example, the Brain Pulse Project is developing a new, non-invasive method for measuring Intra Cranial Pressure (ICP), which is a key indicator in the diagnosis of many neurological conditions. Another project is developing a novel new treatment which it is hoped may help prevent secondary strokes in patients who have suffered a bleed on the brain. 


Appeals Director and friend of the Bowler family, Neil Westbrook, is justifiably proud of what the charity has achieved, but has never lost sight of how it all started.


“Rich was a terrific lad and we’d turn the clocks back in a heartbeat if we could. Sadly, that’s not possible, but it is of some comfort to know that he inspired fundraising that has since benefited thousands, and helped many families avoid similar tragedies.”



Inspired to discover more about Smile4Wessex or to get involved? Please visit or call the Appeal Office on 023 8120 8882

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