Campaigners' Macmillan fundraising gala legacy lives on

On the second day of our Star Business Challenge campaign, launched to ask local firms to raise £100,000 to celebrate Macmillan's centenary, Health Writer Sarah Dunn found out more about the local people who have spent decades showing they care.

WHEN Ecclesfield housewife Pat Bashton first set out in 1973 to raise cash for what was then known as the Macmillan Cancer Relief charity, she had no idea her fundraising legacy would live on 37 years later.

Pat had seen the benefits of the charity first hand through her work for a cancer specialist in Manchester, and was inspired to start something to do her bit to help.

The original committee was made up of enthusiastic friends and neighbours, who set about fundraising through a variety of events from race nights to raffles and jumble sales to dances and fashion shows.

By the early 1980s, the group members had become more ambitious and decided to offer their services organising and running the Ecclesfield Village Gala, which had been set up by the local parish council.

Now, 30 years on, the event is fixed firmly in the local social calendar as a popular and affordable family day out.

More than 153,000 was raised by the group over the years they were in charge - a huge fundraising feat.

Pat said the support shown from the local community had been strong from the very start.

"The very first gala was ambitious to say the least," she said. "But people are only too willing to give their services for nothing for such a good cause. This proved only too true when the band, majorettes, karate class and dancing school were performing at the same time!

"The committee were always grateful for the support from the Ecclesfield Parish Council, local businesses, and everyone that attended the event, not to mention friends, family and work colleagues who helped for many years giving up so much of their time."

By the end of the 1990s, the committee membership had started to dwindle - leaving Pat as chair, Monica Dyson as secretary, Sandra Holmes as treasurer, and fellow members Margaret Savage and Pat Slater.

As the demands became more difficult and the number of helpers reduced, the committee reluctantly disbanded and handed over the running of the gala to the present committee, who are continuing to build on their success.

Last year alone, the event raised 10,000 for the charity - a record sum for the gala.

Current organiser Michael Whiting from Chapeltown said: "The gala is more than just a fundraising event - it has become an established event in Ecclesfield's calendar.

"It provides a day of family fun and entertainment which brings the community together and is something of which we can all be proud. In fact, in 2008 the event was nominated for an award as 'Sheffield's Best Community Organisation' at Sheffield's Night of Honour, and in 2009 the gala won.

We have also been presented with Ecclesfield Parish Council Chairman's Award for our efforts."

Fundraising efforts like the Ecclesfield Gala across the region have helped launch a host of specialist support services for cancer patients in South Yorkshire - things like the Macmillan Information and Support Unit which was opened at St John's Hospice in Doncaster in 2004.

Now it is open Monday to Friday from 9am until 5pm with two staff members based at the service and also reaching out across the community through information points which help patients, carers, family and friends who are worried about cancer.

A similar project was also set up based at Rotherham Hospital, opened by the Earl of Scarborough in June 2006. It was originally open two-and-a-half days a week and now works five days - but more volunteers are always needed.

This year's centenary campaign is not the first time The Star has joined forces with Macmillan to support their work.

In 1999, we launched The Horizons Appeal in partnership with the charity and raised a whopping 1.25m.

The money was used to build the Macmillan Unit for Palliative Care at the Northern General Hospital, which opened in 2002. The 18-bed unit for people with cancer and palliative care was designed by the charity to help people who can't be cured to have the best care in an appropriate environment.

Dianne Parker is one dedicated volunteer who first became involved through the appeal.

She said: "It was a fantastic project to be involved in.

"The unit is really important to local people, as the only other palliative care unit was at St Luke's Hospice and the demand for beds was just too great.

"The unit enabled more local people to access end of life care in a specialist environment, and I was proud to be part of the build."

Two years later - following another fundraising drive called The Million Appeal - the Sheffield Lymphedema Service was launched, supporting people with the condition which causes localized fluid retention and tissue swelling.

It is the only service of its kind in the city, and helps women through massage, bandaging and exercise to manage the swelling which occurs in more than a quarter of breast cancer patients.

Jane Harding, lymphedema specialist at the centre in Middlewood Road, said: "Until 2004, there was no dedicated specialist lymphedema service in Sheffield available to help anyone with this potentially debilitating condition.

"The extent of the swelling can often reach striking proportions and can affect both young and old and not just people with cancer - it can also result from trauma or infection or be due to a congenital or hereditary factor.

"Only with the help of Macmillan working with the PCT was the current service launched and, since August 2004, over 1,000 people have had the benefit of this vital service.

"As a team, we are proud to carry the Macmillan name."

- Firms interested in signing up for The Star Business Challenge - asking firms to organise fundraising events amongst staff, encourage their customers to show their support or make a one-off donation - should contact the Macmillan South Yorkshire fundraising office by email - - or call 01246 810 301.

- See The Star tomorrow for a glimpse at Macmillan fundraising events coming up during the charity's centenary year.

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