A WEARSIDE group with the Midas touch is to celebrate a golden anniversary in style.
The Sunderland Committee of Cancer Research UK has raised more than £1million since 1963 – and yet more fund-raising is on the cards to mark its landmark 50th birthday next year.
“Cancer is something that touches a lot of people’s lives. I lost my only son to it nearly nine years ago,” said Florence Norman, the 92-year-old chairwoman of the group.
“We have done a lot of good over the years, but it is vital to continue raising money for research. Without research, there is no hope of finding treatments or cures.”
Wearsiders first teamed up to form a fund-raising committee in April 1963, when the fledgling group was known as the British Order for Cancer Research.
The next change of name saw volunteers become part of North of England Cancer Research. A further shake-up in the 1990s led to the creation of the Cancer Research Campaign.
Today the committee operates as Cancer Research UK, following the Campaign’s merger with the Imperial Cancer Research Fund, but the ambition remains the same – to cure cancer.
“It is a long job, a slow job, but we’re getting there,” said committee stalwart Edna Ford, a member for over 30 years.
“One in three of us is still likely to get cancer at some stage in our lives – a frightening statistic. But there are many tales of people going into remission and recovering.”
Every penny raised by volunteers is gifted to the Northern Institute for Cancer Research in Newcastle, where experts develop personalised treatments for adults and children.
“It is surprising how donations mount up. We raised £717,060 between 1989 and 2010 and, with the money collected before and after this, we have made more than £1million,” said Edna.
Edna first became involved with the committee after her sister’s father-in-law died from cancer – prompting family members to complete a sponsored run in his honour.
“I was invited to join when I went along to hand over the money raised in his memory,” she said. “The rest, as they say, is history.
“For my own part I ran – jogged! – the Great North Run 15 times, and my husband John completed the first 25 Great North Runs, raising sponsorship for each event.”
The early years of the committee saw Judge Myrella Cohen step into the role of patron, with ladies from Sunderland’s synagogue organising coffee mornings to raise funds.
Several of Sunderland’s mayors also offered support, by nominating the group as their charity of the year, and students at Argyle House and Thornhill School helped out too.
“We worked very closely with Thornhill,” said Edna. “The pupils undertook annual sponsored walks, supermarket bag packs, collections and school concerts each year. During the time I have been involved with the charity, many inroads have been made into the treatment of various cancers, especially the treatment of children’s cancer.”
Today, coffee mornings and music nights are the staple of the group’s fund-raising activities, with several events planned over the next few weeks – including two this weekend.
“We have done all sorts of things to raise funds, from opening a shop for a few weeks at a time to collections and sponsored events such as abseils,” said Florence.
“I have enjoyed every moment of my involvement with the committee, as the work is so necessary – and it helps keep me going too!”
** Anyone willing to pledge their support to the Sunderland Committee of Cancer Research UK can contact Edna on 536 2669.