The Children’s Cancer and Leukaemia Group has benefitted from £84,000 thanks to the efforts of a small group of East Antrim women.
The sum was raised through fundraisers which got underway following the death of teenager Jenni Clarke who died from cancer at the age of just 15-years-old.
At the suggestion of her consultant, Jenni’s mum Ruth Clarke, from Whitehead, supported by family friend Elsie French, Larne harbour harbour master’s secretary, from Islandmagee, set about the mammoth charity effort.
Their biggest fund-raiser is their annual formal evening held in the Clarion Hotel, in Carrick. The most recent, which took place in October, raised the sum of £2,300.
But this will be the last to be held for a few years.
Elsie explained: “We just want to end on a high note and go while the going is good,”
She indicated that interest has fluctuated during the past few years.
However, she said that other fundraisers for the charity will continue including the mulled wine night at the Marine Bar in Whitehead on December 13.
Another popular event is the clothes sale which has become an annual event and will take place once again in March.
“We ask for donations of new or nearly items. Nothing costs more than £5. We hold the sale on a Friday evening and Saturday morning in the Whitecliff in Whitehead. People love getting a bargain,” explained Elsie.
Recently, Elsie and Ruth took part in a Victorian fair in Whitehead, selling fudge from a Victorian-style pram in the town centre raising £276.
“We are always thinking of new ideas and fund-raising,” said Elsie.
Her efforts don’t just stop there. As a committee member, she also fundraises for Whitehead Golf Club.
But as a friend of the Clarke family, the Children’s Cancer and Leukaemia Group is closest to her heart. She said that it was her way of doing something to help following Jenni’s tragic death from rhabdomyosarcoma. Rhabdomyosarcoma is the most common of the soft tissue sarcomas in children. These tumours develop from muscle or fibrous tissue and can grow in any part of the body.
Fundraising efforts have been supported by her former school, Carrickfergus Grammar and classmates. In 2002, staff and pupils raised funds by abseiling down Belfast’s Europa Hotel.
Fundraising has been further boosted by relatives in England who have completed gruelling physical challenges including the “Lakeland Top Ten Challenge” which involved walking 57 miles between the mountains and a total ascent of 30,100 feet.
Locally, they have been assisted by friends Maggie Holmes and Olive Nelson, from Whitehead. The ladies have taken part in the Belfast Marathon and have received sponsorship from the annual road race in Whitehead on Easter Monday.
Elsie continued: “To raise the sum of £84,000 is an excellent achievement if it does some good down the line.”
She indicated that the money has helped the Children’s Cancer and Leukaemia Group to fund a biochemist post. It is the only UK charity dedicated to supporting research and those looking after children and teenagers with cancer.