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Penrith volunteer’s dedication to charity earns national praise

Mike and Keith Smith

A PENRITH volunteer has received a special commendation from Cancer Research UK in recognition of his outstanding contribution to the cause.

Well known angler Mike Smith was shortlisted in the charity’s annual Flame of Hope Awards which acknowledge remarkable efforts in fundraising and volunteering made by people from all walks of life.

He won a special commendation in the “Pioneer of the Year” award category for his tireless fundraising work.

Mike, who works at Center Parcs, has so far raised more than an incredible £13,000 for the charity after dreaming-up  “A Bite out of Cancer”.

Mike Smith

The 36-year-old, who lives with partner Laura, was among a total of 181 individuals and groups from all across the UK recognised by the Flame of Hope awards.

The awards ceremony in London, hosted by Cancer Research UK’s chairman, Sir Leszek Borysiewicz, had to be cancelled this year to protect the country’s health during the COVID-19 outbreak.

The pandemic has caused a devastating loss of funding for cancer research. Following the cancellation of fundraising events like Race for Life, Cancer Research UK is expecting a staggering £160 million drop in income in the year ahead. As a result, the charity has made the difficult decision to cut £44 million in research funding.

Mike, who is originally from Buckinghamshire, was inspired to fundraise for the charity after losing both his maternal grand-father and his dad.

He and his best friend were inspired on a trip to the North East and decided to donate the weight of every fish they caught to Cancer Research UK. The idea took off and the fishing community started to do the same via Mike’s online fundraising page. Mike now has a loyal social media following all over the UK with anglers even getting involved from the United States and Canada.

He aims to take his fundraising tally up to £25,000 next year.

Ray Thornton

Grandfather Ray Thornton was diagnosed with an aggressive brain tumour after a fall. He had been fit and active with no other symptoms. But a CT scan following the fall revealed the large tumour. The cancer was too advanced for Ray to have treatment and he died aged 83 in 2011.

Mike’s dad, Keith Smith, had suffered from debilitating migraines for some years before he was eventually diagnosed with a very large brain tumour. Keith had successful chemotherapy and radiotherapy treatment which shrunk the tumour massively. However, he died as a result of a series of strokes in 2015 aged 55.

Keith Smith

Mike said: “I didn’t expect the fundraising to take off so quickly, but I have high hopes for 2021 and the more followers on social media, then the more money comes in for the charity which is just brilliant.

“I’ve seen first-hand what cancer can do to someone and research is vital. Every time I go fishing it’s in memory of my dad.

“I’m thrilled to do my bit to help and honoured to receive the Flame of Hope award.”

Michelle Mitchell, Cancer Research UK’s chief executive, said: “The Flame of Hope awards give us the opportunity to celebrate and say thank you to our enormously generous volunteers and supporters for their fantastic work.

“Covid-19 has slowed us down but we will never stop. We are determined to continue our research to create better treatments for tomorrow. Cancer Research UK has continued to work through world wars, recession and other periods of major disruption. We remain as focussed as ever on beating cancer and I want to thank everyone who has supported us through this time.

“Cancer Research UK’s pioneering work in to the prevention, diagnosis and treatment of cancer has helped save millions of lives but that’s only possible thanks to the commitment of our supporters and volunteers, without whom it would not be possible to fund outstanding scientists, doctors and nurses.”

Over the last 40 years, survival has doubled in the UK – today half of people with cancer will survive their disease for at least 10 years. Cancer Research UK’s ambition is to ensure that by 2034, three quarters of people survive for 10 years or more after a diagnosis.

Jane Bullock, Cancer Research UK spokesperson for the North West, said: “Every step we make towards beating cancer relies on every pound, every hour and every person.

“These awards are our way of honouring incredible people like Mike who give their time freely to raise money for research and promote greater awareness of the disease, and yet ask for nothing in return.

“It’s thanks to the support of the fundraising public and our amazing army of volunteers that we can continue to make a real difference and bring forward the day when all cancers are cured.”

To donate to Mike’s fundraising page visit:

https://fundraise.cancerresearchuk.org/page/abiteoutofcancer

For more information about Cancer Research UK visit cruk.org

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