Wednesday, 19 September 2012

A change of tactics

Little did I realise that a motivational talk I gave 12 months ago would end up having a significant effect on my future plans as a fundraiser. Last year, I was asked to talk to the runners that were taking part in the Great North Run in aid of The Sir Bobby Robson Foundation. I was only happy to share my experiences of the run across the USA and I hope that I motivated and inspired the runners to run fast and raise lots of money for such a worthy cause.

After my speech, I took the opportunity to talk to Lady Elsie Robson and her family including her son Mark (pictured below). I was very keen to find out more about The Sir Bobby Robson Foundation and the role it plays in tackling the treatment of of cancer. I left the talk feeling, not only, very well informed but very inspired too. 

I particularly liked how the Foundation was set up as a fund within the Newcastle upon Tyne Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust. The administrative costs therefore, are very low indeed. No professional fundraisers are employed to raise funds or co-ordinate volunteers. The Foundation relies completely on third party and volunteer fundraisers. I believe that it was Sit Bobby's wish that it be set up this way. What an amazing legacy to leave in place for the benefit of the North East and Cumbria.

Like the other charity I raise funds for (The Children's Foundation), I really liked the fact that, despite being based in Newcastle, it reached so many people further afield. 

Having lost both of my parents to lung cancer, this terrible disease and it's treatment has a significant meaning to me personally. I was only 17 when my Dad died in 1988 and 23 when my Mam died in 1995. I was extremely close to both of my parents and to have them taken from me so soon is such a cruel thing that I think about every single day. I could talk about and dwell on this aspect of my life for hours if I had to. Some days I feel very angry and some days I feel incredibly sad. Most days, however, I feel very grateful to St Benedict's Hospice in Sunderland for giving my Mam a dignified and comfortable end to her life. It is a debt of gratitude that I will never be able to fully repay. I feel very proud, as I'm sure my parents would have, that, thanks to so many people's generousity, I've managed to raise over £100,000 for the Hospice since 1994.  

Last week after seeing the news that Lady Elsie Robson open the Sir Bobby Robson Foundation PET Tracer Production Unit at Newcastle University I decided to act upon feelings that I'd had since the talk I gave last year. I really feel overwhelmingly drawn to what I see as the "treatment of cancer through trial and research".

After looking at a few other charities, I realised that my fundraising heart was already with The Sir Bobby Robson Foundation. I have therefore decided after many months of careful thought and consideration to cease fundraising for St Benedict's Hospice and concentrate all of my fundraising efforts in aid of The Sir Bobby Robson Foundation and The Children's Foundation.

For me, this is nowabout helping to raise funds to allow the experts to find a cure for this terrible disease. A cure that may, indeed, have saved my parents lives had it been found.

As an ambassador and fundraiser for The Children's Foundation, I feel equally as strong about raising funds to help ensure the happiness, health and safety of so many children in our region. This "vision" is, of course, delivered through the many projects that are funded by the charity.

I've now got Lady Elsie Robson's (pictured below) words permanently in my mind - "Bob always said 'when' not 'if' we beat cancer.".

It may take many generations to beat the disease. The generation that currently exists right here and right now can really play their part in the fight against cancer. The Sir Bobby Robson Foundation is one of many such charities that are fighting the disease through trial and research in our world. It has a huge part to play in this ongoing battle. To quote Lady Elsie again "by pulling together we will continue to play a significant part  in the fight against this disease.".

I visited the Sir Bobby Robson Cancer Trials Research Centre yesterday and heard about future plans as well as the 93 ongoing clinical trials. I can say that the future plans are very exciting as well as very ambitious. For the first time in my family's 24 year association with cancer I genuinely believe that the good that comes from the centre is going to greatly advance mankind's knowledge in the effective diagnosis and treatment of cancer. The purchase of the Biomarker Generator, that was in the news last week, is testament to that. It's only the second of it's type in the world and the first in Europe.

I informed St Benedict's Hospice of my plans yesterday and received a lovely and very understanding response "….. obviously very saddened by your decision, but we are extremely grateful for your total and utter commitment to St. Benedict's Hospice for a great many years. 

Everyone here in the fundraising office wish you well and good luck in your challenge and please keep in touch - we'd love you to visit the new Hospice when it opens in the spring; after all its people like you that have made it possible! 

Once again, Mark, thank you so much.!".

I'll miss dealing with all of the fundraising staff at the Hospice and will look fondly back on the time I spent with Anne Oliver (pictured below with Denise Robertson and myself) over the years.

It's now time to look forward and focus very strongly on a successful 2600 mile run across Australia. Like the run from John O'Groats to Lands End in 2007 and the run across the USA in 2011 it's going to take a lot of dedication, planning, support and an ounce of luck here and there to make it as successful as previous campaigns.

With a renewed fundraising focus I am as determined, if not more so, as previous years to do my bit to warrant the general public's generousity. That "bit" just so happens to involve running across some of the world's most inhospitable terrain. As ever, it promises to be quite an adventure. Stay tuned over the next 15 months to see how it all pans out.