A Million for Maggie’s: How 10-year drive to create new Leeds centre looks set to transform cancer support

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Almost a decade ago one simple speech planted the seed that is set to flower into a groundbreaking cancer support centre for Yorkshire.

The imagination of NHS bosses in Yorkshire was captured when told the story behind support charity Maggie’s, which has since blossomed from one cancer patient’s dream into a portfolio of multimillion pound support facilities.

Maggie’s business development manager Sarah Beard’s thought-provoking talk on the charity’s story at a conference led Sean Duffy, then medical director of the Yorkshire Cancer Network, to explore the possibility of a centre for Yorkshire.

Years later architects at Heatherwick Studio, the designers of the 2012 Olympic cauldron, were brought in to design a £5million support centre to be built on an unassuming patch of grass opposite Leeds St James’s Hospital’s Bexley Wing.

The centre, dubbed Maggie’s Yorkshire, will offer free practical, emotional and social support to people with cancer and their families and friends from all over the county when it opens in 2017.

But fundraising is needed to help make the facility a reality, which is why the Yorkshire Evening Post has launched the A Million for Maggie’s campaign this week.

Speaking of his introduction to the Maggie’s concept, Mr Duffy, who is now strategic clinical lead at the Leeds Cancer Centre, said: “It blew me away. It was a very good presentation and went straight to the heart of the patient and wanting to build and construct and wrap around support for patients in an environment that was very, very different from anything I had ever seen before in relation to cancer support.”

Leeds was chosen to host the centre because the Leeds Cancer Centre at St James’s sees 80 per cent of all cancer patients in West Yorkshire pass through its doors, while providing specialist treatments to 2.7 million people in the county.

The site for the centre, situated next to the hospital’s multi-storey car park, has been purposely picked to give people with cancer who are being treated at Bexley Wing a home-from-home environment just a few hundred yards away.

With support on the doorstep of the Leeds Cancer Centre, patients are to be offered an evidence-based programme of support including benefits advice, nutrition workshops, relaxation and stress management, art therapy, Tai Chi and yoga.

Ben Feely, fundraising manager at Maggie's (right) at the site of the proposed Maggie's Yorkshire centre at St James's Hospital with Kate Smith, head nurse on the oncology clinical services unit, Karen Henry, lead cancer nurse at the Leeds Cancer Centre, and Sean Duffy, strategic clinical lead at the Leeds Cancer Centre. Picture by Tony Johnson.

Ben Feely, fundraising manager at Maggie's (right) at the site of the proposed Maggie's Yorkshire centre at St James's Hospital with Kate Smith, head nurse on the oncology clinical services unit, Karen Henry, lead cancer nurse at the Leeds Cancer Centre, and Sean Duffy, strategic clinical lead at the Leeds Cancer Centre. Picture by Tony Johnson.

Mr Duffy, who visited Maggie’s first centre in Edinburgh following the presentation, added: “I was determined to have at least one Maggie’s centre in Yorkshire. I wanted more and I still want more.

“There’s very good support in West Yorkshire for cancer patients but there’s nothing like Maggie’s.”

Maggie’s Yorkshire is expected to compliment the free offering of services like support groups, yoga classes, counselling and hypnotherapy at the Sir Robert Ogden Macmillan Centre, which opened behind the Thackray Medical Museum in 2000.

“I’m just so excited about the prospect, I’m excited on behalf of patients,” Mr Duffy said. “It will have an immediate impact on patients and how they will feel about their experience.”

Maggie's Yorkshire. Picture by Heatherwick Studio.

Maggie's Yorkshire. Picture by Heatherwick Studio.

Maggie Keswick Jencks, whose breast cancer was deemed terminal in May 1993, set up the organisation with her husband Charles in a bid to offer people with cancer and their families information on treatment, stress reducing strategies, psychological support and the chance to meet other people in similar circumstances in a relaxed domestic atmosphere. She passed away in 1995 before the first Maggie’s centre opened in Edinburgh in November the following year.

The Yorkshire centre set to open in her name will be the next piece of her legacy.

Laura Lee, chief executive at Maggie’s, added: “Maggie’s relies solely on donations and so the support from the YEP’s campaign to raise A Million for Maggie’s is vital to us to be able to build this fantastic centre in Leeds.”

How to get involved

We are determined to raise A Million for Maggie’s – and here’s how you can help.

You could take on a personal challenge, organise bake offs, concerts, charity quizzes or other events while donating the proceeds to our appeal.

Our campaign logo.

Our campaign logo.

Your company could set up a corporate partnership with the appeal, donating employees’ skills or time, or matching employee fundraising.

You can make a one-off gift of £5 or £10 to Maggie’s Yorkshire by texting MYEP99 £5 or MYEP99 £10 to 70070, or by sending a cheque payable to Maggie’s centres to, c/o Ben Feely, Maggie’s Centres, The Gatehouse, 10 Dumbarton Road, Glasgow, G11 6PA, with the reference: YEP A Million for Maggie’s.

For more click the ‘campaigns’ tab at yorkshireeveningpost.co.uk, visit maggiescentres.org/millionformaggies or follow @maggiesyorks on Twitter or see facebook.com/maggiesyorkshire.

If you have any exciting fundraisers planned, or would like any help or support, email ben.feely@maggiescentres.org.

To access the online centre visit maggiescentres.org/our-centres/maggies-online-centre.

Maggie's Yorkshire. Picture by Heatherwick Studio.

Maggie's Yorkshire. Picture by Heatherwick Studio.