Leeds’s own Sir Jimmy Savile: A lifetime of raising cash to help others

JUNE 2008: Sir Jimmy Savile takes part in the Vision Uk 5k run with help of guide Mavis Price.
JUNE 2008: Sir Jimmy Savile takes part in the Vision Uk 5k run with help of guide Mavis Price.
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Although he was known for charity work, the true extent of Sir Jimmy’s efforts was not generally recognised.

The fact is, he raised an astonishing £45 million for good causes, which is, it is believed, more than any other solitary effort in British history.

For 50 years the philanthropist, marathon runner and celebrity extraordinaire regularly donated cash to hospitals for much needed medical equipment.

One of the main beneficiaries of his donations has been the Savile LURE (Leeds Undergraduate Research Enterprise) scheme, where Sir Jimmy gave generous donations to young student doctors to use as they wished for research.

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The Fix It star wanted to support trainee doctors after seeing medical students as a young boy in Leeds.

He said: “I thought what a good scheme to help them before they got weighed down by bureaucracy.

“It’s turned out to be a dream of a scheme. I honestly didn’t give it much of a chance at first, but it’s worked by far and away better than I could have dreamed it would.”

Jimmy also benefited himself from the NHS he helped so much. In 1997 he had a quadruple heart by-pass operations at the Killingbeck Hospital in Leeds.

And even at the height of his fame, he was still intent on raising charity cash and continued to visit the hospital wards in Leeds, and at Stoke Mandeville, where he loved to meet and greet people.

Another cause close to his heart was pioneering treatment for cancer.

The £4 million unit the Bexley Wing at St James’s Hospital includes two CT scanners devoted to research and the use of radiotherapy and is one of the largest cancer centres in Europe.

At the opening of the unit a year ago, Sir Jimmy presented a personal donation of £50,000 to Leeds Teaching Hospitals. He said: “I hope it makes a lot of people a lot happier and a lot safer.”

This money has been used to fund equipment and the wage of Dr Robin Prestwich, who was appointed to the inaugural Savile Fellowship in April.

He said without Sir Jimmy’s personal financial support for the Trust, it would not have been able to start the ground-breaking research trials which offer the chance of improving cancer treatment.

Sir Jimmy also spearheaded a campaign to raise £2m for the keyhole surgery unit at LGI.

For many years, he was also the honorary president of Phab, a charity dedicated to the integration of the Physically Handicapped in the Able Bodied community.

The Stoke Mandeville Brain and Spinal Injury Unit is the place he tirelessly campaigned for non-stop for about three years, regularly donating cash towards the running costs of the world-famous unit to keep it running.

Sir Jimmy raised a massive £20 million for the creation of the National Spinal Injuries Centre in 1983 following damage caused by severe weather to the old pre-fab wooden huts which had housed spinal cord injury patients since 1944.

Until the end of his life he continued to pay a visit there every month, had a suite there, and knew most of the doctors, nurses and patients by name.

Sir Jimmy was modest when it came to listing his phenomenal achievements, but he never gave up his interest in helping the sick.