Construction work has officially started on a “life-changing” centre in Leeds which is due to help thousands of cancer sufferers and their families across the region.
Less than two years after the YEP spearheaded its A Million for Maggie’s campaign in April 2016 – aimed at raising cash towards the £5m target needed to build the charity’s facility at St James’s Hospital – a turf-cutting ceremony took place yesterday to mark the start of its creation.
Martin Jenkins, chairman of the Maggie’s Yorkshire campaign board, and Linda Pollard, chairwoman of Leeds Teaching Hospitals NHS Trust, were among those who made speeches at the event in and outside the Bexley Wing.
Maggie’s support centres offer those who have been diagnosed with cancer and their families a non-clinical environment to relax and socialise in during periods of treatment.
More than £5m has been raised and donated towards the charity’s 23rd facility, which will be close to the hospital’s oncology unit, since plans were revealed some years ago.
Mr Jenkins said: “It’s a very big moment.
“I had a lump in my throat as I rode by the hoardings this morning because it all now is very, very real.
“I’m delighted that we’ve got so many people coming here today from all aspects of our campaign, who have all made invaluable contributions.
“We are a very significant step further to changing the lives of people in Yorkshire who are dealing with cancer.”
He added: “We think it will support visitors of more than 25,000 people every year.
“That’s the scale of impact that we believe the new centre will have.
“When you combine the incredible care and support that Maggie’s will offer to people with the world-class clinical expertise here in Leeds at St James’s, I think we have something that is truly transformational.”
Heatherwick Studio, the architects behind the 2012 Olympic cauldron, designed the centre with the brief of creating “a home people would not ever dare build themselves”.
And Leeds-based construction company Sir Robert McAlpine Ltd has been drafted in to build it following multi-million-pound fundraising efforts and substantial donations from the likes of the Liz and Terry Bramall Foundation.
It is due to take a little more than a year to construct the centre, which will include counselling rooms, a garden, a quiet seating area and kitchen for around 110 people to visit each day.
Around 30,000 people each year in Yorkshire and the Humber are diagnosed with cancer.
Aut during the ceremony Linda Pollard said the emotional aspect of dealing with cancer treatment is just as hard as the physical impact.
This was echoed by Leeds-born Harriet Dow, a married 40-year-old mother-of-one who has incurable breast cancer and has been diagnosed with cancer three times since 2001.
“During everything we’ve been through there are so many times where we would have loved to have walked into a Maggie’s centre, flopped down on a chair and been surrounded by people who get it,” she said.
She added: “Maggie’s will be there to scoop us up when we need to be scooped up. I can’t wait to walk in on the first day.”
David Firth from Sir Robert McAlpine helped officiate the turf-cutting, Dr Terry Bramall CBE discussed the joy of contributing towards the project and Rebeca Ramos, of Heatherwick Studio, explained what the centre will look like and how ideas for it developed. Enough money has been raised to start work, but a total of £6m is needed to complete the project outside the Bexley Wing.