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As humans, we have a duty to give something back - says fundraiser Gina Long as she is made an MBE

PUBLISHED: 09:00 31 December 2015 | UPDATED: 09:52 31 December 2015

Gina Long is included in this year New Years honours list.

Gina Long is included in this year New Years honours list.

During the past 40 years, Suffolk fundraiser Gina Long has always put others first and as a result has managed to raise nearly £2.5million for good causes.

Gina Long is included in this year New Years honours list.Gina Long is included in this year New Years honours list.

And now the 53-year-old, who was brought up in Ipswich but now lives in from Fornham St Martin near Bury St Edmunds has finally been recognised for her tireless voluntary work with an MBE for ‘charitable services in East Anglia’.

Mrs Long, who said the honour was “completely unexpected”, arranged her first charity event - a 24 hour ‘swimathon’ at the former St Matthew’s swimming pool in Ipswich - at the tender age of 13.

Her initial fundraising drive was motivated by a desire to raise money for the Ipswich-based Thomas Wolsey School for children with special needs.

Mrs Long, who went to St Alban’s High School in the town, recalled: “My mother said that ever since I was a small child, I was always organising things and trying to raise money.

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

“I have always been completely passionate about it because I believe that as humans we all have a duty to give something back.”

In her mid 20s, Mrs Long’s fundraising activities blossomed when she began organising an annual ball for around 350 people to help purchase equipment for the special care baby unit at Ipswich Hospital - around £400,000 worth in total.

She continued volunteering with The Prince’s Trust from 1998-2008, eventually becoming chair of the charity’s Suffolk fundraising committee.

Then in 1999 after a friend was diagnosed with cancer, she resolved to help awareness of the disease by co-founding Suffolk Breakthrough Breast Cancer, now renamed The Suffolk Breast Cancer Now Group. Last August, the group passed the £1million fundraising mark.

In memory of close friend Sir Bobby Robson, Mrs Long started Sir Bobby’s Online Auction and Ball in 2011 with the support of his widow Lady Elsie Robson. In the past four years, the auction has netted £875,000 for charities, and the aim is to cross the £1million mark with the fifth auction in 2016.

In addition during the past 18 months, she has chaired the special events committee for East Anglia’s Children’s Hospices which cared for 600 families last year. To sustain this, she raised more than £100,000 in 2014.

Along with her husband Andrew Long, she also helped to found the Classic and Sports Cars by the Lake event to fundraise for Bury St Edmunds-based St Nicholas Hospice Care. To date the event has brought in more than £150,000.

Most recently in October last year, Mrs Long set up The GeeWizz Charitable Foundation to help children with disabilities and those who are affected by cancer. The charity purchased a £24,000 electric wheelchair for three-year-old George Woodward, who has a life-threatening condition.

Despite her astounding achievements over the past four decades, Mrs Long said the MBE came as big surprise and that she “couldn’t have done any of it without the support of her family and an army of volunteers”.

She added: “I feel very lucky that the people I have met along the way have been so inspirational, and that’s the joy of what I do.

“Behind every exciting event and project I have been involved with, there has been a team of people who have embraced them in order to make them a success.”

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