One of South Cumbria’s most iconic businesses and one of the area’s biggest charities have been working together for more than 20 years to support local people with cancer.
Sam Rayner, Chairman of Lakeland, is delighted that his caring team members have led and benefited from sustained fundraising for CancerCare.
To date, an astonishing £426,526 has been raised through the efforts of kind and compassionate Lakeland staff.
Sam’s wife Judy is also a passionate supporter of CancerCare and is happy that the charity is helping ever-increasing numbers of people in South Cumbria.
Lakeland’s original connections with CancerCare were formed when Professor Malcolm McIllmurray, CancerCare’s founder and now Life President, asked Judy if she would help to raise funds to buy a centre for the charity in Kendal.
Thankfully, Judy said yes and joined a special appeals committee with many others. Together they helped raise more than £225,000 to buy a former NHS health clinic on Blackhall Road – now known as The Lakes Centre.
An altruistic and creative woman, Judy has put huge amounts of time and energy into organising several fundraising balls for CancerCare.
Judy said: “We had friends who had cancer and I wanted to give something back to the community.
“In those days it was called ‘The big C’ because people were afraid to talk about it. It’s amazing how things have changed over the years.
“Every time we organised a ball it really raised the profile of CancerCare. I would have conversations over shop counters about CancerCare. It also helped people to talk more about cancer.
“What I felt was that I had three young children, a lovely home and I was very blessed. I didn’t have a lot of time on my hands so I decided to do one big event every year or so.
“I was very enthusiastic about it because I could see the difference CancerCare made to people.”
Judy and Sam live in Kendal and have three children named Ben, Becky and Mathew. They also have two grandchildren named Jessica and Henry and another grandchild on the way.
The couple got to know Professor McIllmurray well in the early years of CancerCare and were impressed by his vision.
Prof McIllmurray perceived that it was not enough to simply treat the physical condition of cancer – people also needed support to cope with the psychological and emotional effects of the disease.
Judy said: “As a leading oncologist, Professor McIllmurray was a fabulous advocate for CancerCare.
“We liked the ethos of what he was trying to do. He had real credibility. I thought that was the most wonderful thing and it blossomed from there.
“CancerCare offers a fantastic support network. Sometimes it’s easier to talk to someone outside the family who understands.
“Cancer rates are improving and people are living longer but there is still a need for CancerCare. It’s great that everything is much more in the open now.”
Sam, who served as High Sheriff of Cumbria in 2015, said: “Professor MacIllmurrary and his nurses had a huge vision that has grown into something very special.
“He and his nurses saw that there was no help for people from being diagnosed to treatment during that traumatic time. He wanted to provide holistic care and that was something very different in those days.
“Our team at Lakeland has long supported CancerCare and there is an ongoing connection and commitment.”
Products that have been returned by Lakeland customers are sold at a reduced rate to staff and the money is put into a CancerCare fund.
Twenty years ago it was an ad hoc arrangement until a Lakeland employee asked if CancerCare could be supported.
Eileen Barnes, one of Lakeland’s Home Shopping (catalogue distribution) managers, accessed CancerCare’s services when her husband Arthur had cancer.
Professor McIllmurray referred Eileen to the service and it helped the couple come to terms with Arthur’s diagnosis and treatment.
A formidable woman with a big heart, Eileen was keen for any money raised by the sale of returned items to go to CancerCare. She wanted to help others who were in a similar position to herself and made sure there were plenty of collection boxes.
Lesley Metcalfe from Windermere, who has worked for Lakeland for 25 years, knew Eileen well.
Lesley said: “Eileen started our link with CancerCare. She was an absolute darling.
“Eileen thought the sale of returned goods would be a good way of fundraising and giving something back to CancerCare. She was so passionate about it.
“Her idea was unanimously supported by the staff. So many people are touched by cancer these days. Lakeland is very supportive of staff who have had cancer.
“CancerCare helped Eileen to cope. It helped her to meet people in similar circumstances – people who had been through it and understood the feelings.
“Eileen’s daughter Debbie, who worked at Lakeland for around 40 years, is a good friend of mine. Everyone in the family was grateful for the support they received.”
Alison Locker, a Management Accounts Assistant who has worked for Lakeland for 27 years, said: “For me the link with CancerCare is special because it is keeping Eileen’s memory alive. I used to work with Eileen’s daughter Debbie.
“CancerCare is a life-saver. The support and understanding people receive is amazing.
“I think Eileen would be ecstatic that there are still strong links between Lakeland and CancerCare.”
When Lakeland’s Customer Director, Michelle Kershaw, was also diagnosed with cancer, her legacy was a research fund which still bears her name.
This fund was recently used to support the cost of carrying out research into the setting up of a new CancerCare service in the Barrow and Furness area. Thanks to the research work and the efforts of staff, volunteers, supporters and the community of Barrow, this service is now flourishing.
Lesley said: “Michelle was a real champion of CancerCare and she used the services.
“It was as if all our customers had lost a personal friend when Michelle passed away. Her research fund is a lovely connection.”
Lakeland’s support has had a massive impact on CancerCare and it has clearly been transformational.
CancerCare is dependent on charitable giving for 80 per cent of its £1.2 million annual turnover and Lakeland has been its largest and most regular donor.
The charity is hugely grateful to Lakeland for this kind and unstinting support.
Neil Townsend, Chief Executive of CancerCare, added: “Central to this story is how the two organisations share a culture of support for the community and their staff.
“Despite its growth, Lakeland’s ‘heartland’ footprint has remained locally based and shares a common footprint with CancerCare across North Lancashire and South Cumbria.
“The phrase ‘special relationship’ often comes to mind and this is a true description of what has grown and been nurtured for more than 20 years.
“It is special because it has been driven by Lakeland’s staff and personal connections.
“I am delighted that the relationship goes beyond the regular and amazing donations we receive and is much deeper than that.
“We maintain regular contact with Lakeland, visiting their offices, holding advice sessions, talking about cancer openly and being able to say thank you for the support.
“This staff engagement and support will continue from us at CancerCare. It’s our way of paying back.”
If you would like to find out more about CancerCare’s free services for people affected by cancer in South Cumbria and North Lancashire, please email [email protected] or call 01524 381 820 and ask for the Therapy Team. More information is also available at www.cancercare.org.uk
For more information on Lakeland please go to: www.lakeland.co.uk