[A] team of 71 swimmers braved the chilly waters of Lake Windermere to swim in this year’s Great North Swim in a poignant tribute to popular local businessman and dad-of-three David Benjamin, raising more than a staggering £20,000 for research into the disease that killed him almost exactly a year ago to the day of the event.
David, who was 53-years-old, died of skin cancer the day after watching his two younger sons Alex (21) and Oliver (18) take part in last year’s Great North Swim to raise money for Rosemere Cancer Foundation, which is funding a locally led, three-year melanoma (skin cancer) diagnosis and research project.
This year, Alex and Oliver were joined by elder brother James (25), mum Deborah, David’s business partner Andrew Kneale and a host of family and friends in the water to swim at least a half mile in celebration of David’s life.
With Alex and Oliver’s 2015 swim raising just over £6,000, the group had set itself a £10,000 fundraising target but smashed it through donations pouring into its Just Giving page (www.justgiving.com/fundraising/TeamDavidBenjamin)
Cathy Skidmore, Rosemere’s corporate fundraising manager, said: “The team has raised more than double the target it set itself, which is quite unprecedented and goes to show the esteem with which David is held within his community. We are extremely grateful but we are also very humbled by Deborah, David’s sons and those closest to David who showed such tremendous courage in taking this feat on at a time when emotions must have been particularly raw.”
Although he lived in Ambleside with his family, David was Morecambe-born. As managing director of Matthews Benjamin and Fine & Country Lakes and North Lancs, he worked throughout the area at the company’s offices in Lancaster, Kendal, Windermere and Ambleside.
Matthews Benjamin and Fine & Country Lakes and North Lancs, of which Deborah is also a director, gave money to sponsor each swimmer’s place in the team. In addition, since March, the company has given £100 to Rosemere Cancer Foundation for every house sale it has completed. This money helps Rosemere fund other projects to help local cancer patients.
Melanoma is the UK’s fifth most common cancer. Of those patients diagnosed with cutaneous melanoma (a melanoma that appears on the skin), between seven to 20 per cent fall into a high risk group of developing secondary cancerous tumours in other parts of the body. This is what happened to David.
The money raised by Team Benjamin will go directly to a research project being led by Dr Ruth Board at Rosemere Cancer Centre in Preston, which is where David was referred for treatment. Dr Board led David’s care.
The project’s aim is to identify markers in high risk group patients’ blood that can be screened for with a simple blood test. Undertaken regularly at their GP surgery, it is hoped the blood test will enable any returning cancer to be detected at its earliest, most treatable stage, potentially saving patients’ lives.
As well as supporting research projects, Rosemere Cancer Foundation spends the donations it receives on vital equipment and training that cannot be funded by the NHS as it strives to bring world class cancer treatments and services to local cancer patients throughout South Cumbria and Lancashire via their local hospitals and the specialist regional treatment centres. These specialist centres are the Rosemere Cancer Centre at the Royal Preston Hospital, Blackpool Victoria Hospital for blood cancers and the Royal Blackburn for liver cancers.
The charity also funds those things that can make the cancer journey a little more comfortable such as free access to complementary therapies for all newly diagnosed patients.