Former football manager and popular TV personality Harry Redknapp has put his support behind trying to save the Wessex Cancer Trust from closure.
The Trust, a self-funded charity which provides free emotional and practical support to anyone living with cancer on the Isle of Wight, in Hampshire and Dorset, has launched a crisis appeal to raise £600,000 by January 31, or it could be forced to close.
Redknapp was in charge of both Portsmouth and Southampton during a illustrious managerial career, and was also last year’s winner of popular TV show ‘I’m A Celebrity Get Me Out Of Here’. He has now become Patron of the fund-raising campaign, and on a visit to the Wessex Cancer Centre this week, he said: “People don’t do anything until it affects them. Let’s get as many people on board and see what we can do, and make the effort.”
The charity, which has been supporting local families for almost 40 years, has seen a 30 per cent increase in demand for its services this year. It has also been hit by a 65 per cent reduction in people leaving a gift in their will, and the decline in the High Street which has seen its shop sales fall by 15 per cent. A large, previously notified gift has been delayed and together these factors have tipped the charity into a crisis situation.
Every year, Wessex Cancer Trust supports around 11,000 people through its four cancer support centres, which provide a drop-in service, professional counselling, complementary therapies, activities, support groups and courses. It also provides transport on its Daisy Buses, outreach services and a popular Sing for Life choir.
The Isle of Wight’s newly refurbished centre in Newport, which provides support for more than 1,000 Islanders each year, recently re-opened its doors following a successful £100,000 fundraising appeal. Meanwhile, the charity’s Daisy Buses complete more than 20,000 passenger journeys each year, providing a vital link for IW patients going to their mainland hospital appointments.
Barry Rinaldi, Wessex Cancer Trust’s Chairman, said: “Since 1981, Wessex Cancer Trust has been there for local people at a particularly tough time in their lives. Being told you have cancer is devastating. Living with it can be incredibly lonely and affects all aspects of your life. We work tirelessly to give people a safe place to get support regardless of age, gender or type of cancer, away from a hospital environment. We do not receive any Government funding and rely on voluntary donations and fundraising to run our services.
“One in two of us will get cancer and an increasing number of us are living longer after a cancer diagnosis meaning more and more people will need us in the future. Throughout 2019, we have been working hard to ensure we can continue to meet the growing and diverse needs of people living with cancer in the future. We have recently launched a new strategy which outlines how we will evolve our services to care for every single person in a way that best meets their individual needs. In the long term, this will enable us to help more people and improve our financial sustainability. But we’ve been struggling to stabilise our financial situation. We have worked tirelessly to explore all income sources and make cost savings, but now have no other option than to ask for urgent help.
“This is not a Christmas appeal or a planned campaign, it is a last resort. We have never needed to run a crisis appeal before but now urgently need to raise £600,000 by 31 January 2020. If we fail, we will not be there for the 165,000 people who will be facing a cancer diagnosis by 2030 and their loved ones. This would be a heartbreaking end to almost four decades of crucial support and it is particularly upsetting given our plans for the future of local cancer care. For almost 40 years we have supported local families through their toughest times. Now we are facing ours and urge you to help us if you can.
“We know the Isle of Wight community has already worked tirelessly to sustain and improve our services over the past 18 months. Both the Daisy Bus and Isle of Wight support centre appeals were an incredible success and we hope Islanders will stand by us in our time of need to ensure these services can continue to help local people affected by cancer for many years to come.”