A dad who lost his wife to a rare genetic cancer which his children are now at risk from has received an award in recognition of his outstanding contribution towards life-saving research.
Cancer Research UK’s annual Flame of Hope Awards acknowledge remarkable efforts in fundraising and volunteering made by people from all walks of life.
Jo Williamson scooped the Uniting Communities award, beating off stiff competition from across the UK. Jo, 69, of Auchterhouse, near Dundee was congratulated at a special online presentation last week. (October 16) This was in place of a ceremony in London hosted by Cancer Research UK’s chairman, Sir Leszek Borysiewicz, which had to be cancelled to protect the country’s health during the COVID-19 outbreak.
Retired wine buyer Jo whose wife Sue died aged 57 from cancer on December 23 2003 after a 10 year fight with the disease knows first-hand just how crucial research is to accelerate progress and ensure more people survive. After supporting the charity for more than two decades, Jo was chosen to star in a UK wide tv campaign called ‘I Pledge.’
He was filmed hill walking at dawn as the sun came up on one of the coldest days of the year for the campaign which encourages people from all walks of life to make a pledge- or promise- right now to leave something in their Wills to help beat cancer for future generations. He appears in the tv advert, poster and billboard campaign alongside nurses, doctor and scientists who commit to turn these pledges in to new breakthroughs and create new hope.
Jo said: “It’s a fantastic campaign which I’m proud to be a part of and feel very passionately about.
“My wife Sue was a great family person and our children were absolutely the most important part of her life. I’m fortunate now to have seven grandchildren and I know how much Sue would have loved them too. If I have money left to leave in my Will when I die then I’ll leave that money to my four children and if you like,research in to cancer is my fifth child.
"I plan to divide everything in to five. We’ve been fighting cancer as a family for a long time now and this is a powerful way to leave an incredible gift of hope. I was amazed to even be nominated for a Flame of Hope award but to win is an honour. In the decades since I started supporting the charity I’ve seen huge leaps forward in life-saving research.”
Jo who has been a campaigns ambassador for Cancer Research UK since 2016, regularly emails MSPs to help keep cancer services a top priority for the Scottish Government. He also raised £80,000 in three months by taking part in the Medoc Marathon through the French countryside.
Michelle Mitchell, Cancer Research UK’s chief executive, said: “The Flame of Hope awards give us the opportunity to celebrate and say thank you to our enormously generous volunteers and supporters for their fantastic work.
“Covid-19 has slowed us down but we will never stop. We are determined to continue our research to create better treatments for tomorrow. Cancer Research UK has continued to work through world wars, recession and other periods of major disruption. We remain as focussed as ever on beating cancer and I want to thank everyone who has supported us through this time.
“Cancer Research UK’s pioneering work in to the prevention, diagnosis and treatment of cancer has helped save millions of lives but that’s only possible thanks to the commitment of our supporters and volunteers, without whom it would not be possible to fund outstanding scientists, doctors and nurses.”
Jo was among a total of 61 individuals and groups from all across the UK recognised by the Flame of Hope awards. A trophy and a certificate will be posted out to his home.
The pandemic has caused a devastating loss of funding for cancer research. Following the cancellation of fundraising events like Race for Life, Cancer Research UK is expecting a staggering £160 million drop in income in the year ahead. As a result, the charity has made the difficult decision to cut £44 million in research funding.
Lisa Adams, Cancer Research UK spokeswoman for Scotland, said: “Every step we make towards beating cancer relies on every pound, every hour and every person.
“These awards are our way of honouring incredible people like Jo who give their time freely to raise money for research and promote greater awareness of the disease, and yet ask for nothing in return.
“It’s thanks to the support of the fundraising public and our amazing army of volunteers that we can continue to make a real difference and bring forward the day when all cancers are cured.”