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Gallery: Suffolk Breakthrough Breast Cancer - a £1million success story

PUBLISHED: 15:00 24 July 2015 | UPDATED: 21:14 25 July 2015

Ladies in the Pink at the Breakthrough Breast Cancer Walk on the Westside at Ickworth Park

Ladies in the Pink at the Breakthrough Breast Cancer Walk on the Westside at Ickworth Park

Suffolk Breakthrough Breast Cancer is an inspiring story of five friends who have inspired thousands in their quest for a cure, with the charity’s fundraising efforts now passing the £1million mark.

Along the way, there have been small, large and massive fundraising efforts from pink-themed cake sales and walks, to runs, balls and auctions with fantastic lots to bid for.

Since Breakthrough Breast Cancer in Suffolk was formed by a close-knit group of friends in response to a breast cancer diagnosis for one of their number, the charity has caught the imaginations of people throughout the county with its inspirational fundraising events –many of which have been rolled out across the country and adopted by other charities.

I spoke to Ollie Hatcher, but right from the off – I think it was the first thing she said – she was adamant that this was to be about the teams; about the wonderful fundraisers, all of them unpaid volunteers; about those who have given their time and their money to support the cause.

And that cause is to find a cure for and eradicate breast cancer. Since they started out in 1999, as well as seeing the charity grow they have, more importantly, seen the survival rates for breast cancer grow.

It began with five friends – Ollie, Gina Long, Linda Grave, Helen Cook and Sally Balch. It was Sally who was diagnosed with breast cancer. She died in 2004. “We were all fighting for a cure,” says Ollie – and that fight continues.

The women had different skills they brought to the fundraising efforts; marketing and PR, fitness, oncology nursing and their passion and commitment to helping find a cure for breast cancer was to take over much of their lives – not that this is a regret. It has been a life-affirming quest for all of them and their now hugely extended team.

It started, literally, at walking pace with money-raising walks, but it has since also broken into a run and to cycle rides. Even as you read this, Ollie and a group of cyclists will be pedalling towards Paris towards the end of a fundraising bike ride.

That first walk, A Walk on the Wildside, was soon matched by a Walk on the Riverside at Dedham Vale, organised by Sally’s sister and her friends. A Walk on the Westside at Ickworth, came next, this one set up by a relative of Sally’s, Bonk Tasker. A Walk on the Waterside, at Alton Water, was the companion piece organised by Kate Paul.

So the ripples spread outward. More and more people became involved and the funds rolled in.

Suffolk Breakthrough Breast Cancer celebrates raising £1,000,000. L-R: Bonk Tasker, Laura Hudson, Sue Smith, Bury Mayor Patrick Chung, Gina Long and Penny White.Suffolk Breakthrough Breast Cancer celebrates raising £1,000,000. L-R: Bonk Tasker, Laura Hudson, Sue Smith, Bury Mayor Patrick Chung, Gina Long and Penny White.

What sort of things have been paid for by the national Breakthrough Breast Cancer charity? The first dedicated research centre which stands next to the Royal Marsden Hospital was built, followed by centres in Manchester and Glasgow.

Breakthrough lets people see the difference they could make. “We started funding stuff very early on... £20 would buy a (laboratory) pipette. We were sponsoring a scientist. We felt we were very near to it,” said Ollie.

Charities can come in for criticism for their overheads the salaries paid to staff, but not in this case. Ollie said: “We ran at zero cost. Whatever we raised went to Breakthrough. That’s why people and businesses have been so supportive. If we need bottled water for a walk or run, someone will provide it. We have had sponsors who have been with us since day one.”

Early on, the five friends would pile into a car to attend the charity’s annual conference. “On the way we would come up with 10 fresh ideas. The whole lot of us came together for one purpose.”

And tens of thousands of Suffolk people have joined them. People who want to do what they can to help.

Ollie added: “Gina (Long) had fantastic experience of fundraising on a large scale. Her passion for Breakthrough and her fundraising skills have led to some extraordinary events being staged by Suffolk Breakthrough. As a result of the Sir Bobby (Robson) Breakthrough Auctions, she has contributed a staggering amount towards the group’s total funds, without which we would have had many more years of fundraising in a difficult economic climate, endeavouring to reach our first 
£1million.

“Gina is committed to raising funds for research into the causes and new treatments for the disease as well improving education and awareness of breast cancer.”

There are, says Ollie, so many people to thank.

“Belinda Gray and Sally Ball, who set up Art for Cure, first held in 2014, raised £100,000. They had paintings donated from all over Norfolk and Suffolk.”

Breakthrough Breast Cancer group with MPs at WestminsterBreakthrough Breast Cancer group with MPs at Westminster

Paul and Geraldine Milsom, owners of Le Talbooth and Milsoms, with their two Cyclothons, raised more than £15,000 for Breakthrough Breast Cancer Suffolk.

During its term as Ipswich Town Football Club’s nominated charity, an auction of the 1978 FA Cup shirt worn by Roger Osborne – the scorer of the winning and only goal – raised £5,100.

“Penny White set up a fundraising idea with (fashion retailer) Hobbs in Bury St Edmunds. It was so successful that Breakthrough rolled it out across the UK.”

Other ideas that have taken off include Dish it Up for Breakthrough and Legging it for Breakthrough.

Ollie checks as she starts to add more and more names...

One name I specially recall from the years Suffolk Breakthough has been raising awareness and funds is Rhona Damant. Rhona, a young mother with two children, did not survive breast cancer. A supporter of Breakthrough, she wrote a weekly column, full of life and personality, for the East Anglian Daily Times. In it she spoke frankly and fearlessly about breast cancer, even as it took its toll on her.

Thinking about the scope and scale of Suffolk Breakthrough over the last 16 years Ollie reflects: “One person alone can do little. In the fight for a cure for breast cancer we have mustered an army.”

Breakthrough Breast Cancer has merged with Breast Cancer Campaign to form Breast Cancer Now. The website is at www.breastcancernow.org

The sun shone once again for the annual 'Walk on the Wildside'  in aid of Breakthrough Breast Cancer, which started at the White Lion in Aldeburgh.; L-R Tilly Gillings, Hannah Noble, Pippa Goodwyn, Sonia Mermagen, Lynne Goodwyn.The sun shone once again for the annual 'Walk on the Wildside' in aid of Breakthrough Breast Cancer, which started at the White Lion in Aldeburgh.; L-R Tilly Gillings, Hannah Noble, Pippa Goodwyn, Sonia Mermagen, Lynne Goodwyn.

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