Charity shop’s 100k chemo donation

Joseph Bulmer

Massive donation gives hospital appeal added momentum.

LOCAL efforts to build a new chemotherapy unit in Barnstaple have taken another massive step towards reality with news of a �100,000 donation from a village charity shop.

The North Devon Cancer Care Centre Trust (NDCCCT) helped kick-start the �2.2million hospital appeal with a �250,000 pledge in February last year.

Twelve months on, the remarkable fund-raising efforts of the Westward Ho! shop have swelled the overall appeal total to more than �700,000.

The charity has played an instrumental role in the provision of local services for cancer patients after being founded by the late Jennifer Bonetta, following the death of her husband Tom from cancer in 1994.

It helped raise 50 per cent of the money needed to build the existing chemotherapy unit in 1995, and in total, has raised upwards of �1.75million during the last 18 years.

NDCCCT treasurer Howard Davis said that although the charity has collecting boxes in pubs and receives other donations all year round, the majority of the fund-raising comes from the Nelson Road shop.

He said: “That shop does exceedingly well for us. In all this time not one penny has been spent on staff wages – every hour has been given voluntarily. We are very grateful for all the support we get.”

Jennifer died in July last year but her legacy is being fulfilled by son James, who admits he is only just beginning to appreciate the enormity of his mum’s fund-raising efforts, all co-ordinated from the dining room table of the family home in Northam.

“It’s something that has always been close to our hearts,” James told the Gazette.

“Mum knew about the appeal and what was happening and although she won’t be able to see the new unit open, she’d be delighted that we are carrying on her hard work.”

James said NDCCCT was committed to raising more funds for the appeal and hinted that there could be more to come later in the year.

“Our efforts are ongoing. I am always amazed at the support people in North Devon give to this type of appeal.

“The more of these types of services we can get in North Devon to limit the distance people have to travel for treatment, the better. This is one of the charity’s main aims.”

The pledge comes in the same week that hospital bosses began finalising plans for the brand new state-of-the-art unit and day centre alongside the existing North Devon District Hospital building in Barnstaple.

Directorate general manager Sharon Bates said the hospital’s facilities and estates team had already spoken to council planners about the types of things it wanted to do and was now concentrating on the design and how it was gong to run the unit when it opened.

She said: “We have done quite a lot of groundwork on the type of space available to us and have been liaising with local cancer user groups to tap into their thoughts about what a new unit should offer.

“We are beginning to look at the function of what the different rooms will do and will build around that with professional architectural input to ensure the flow of the building works efficiently.”

Mrs Bates said that looking at fund-raising projections, work on the new unit could start as early as the end of the year.

“It’s beginning to feel very real now,” she added.

Chemotherapy appeal fund-raising manager Ian Roome said: “We are very grateful to North Devon Cancer Care Centre Trust for their donation. We are delighted to see things moving along and advancing to the point where we are going to have plans ready in the next few months. The new donation will hopefully give a boost to fund-raising and things will progress from there.”