Cancer centre for the county

Martin Jenkins is the chairman of the Yorkshire Maggie's fund-raising board. Picture Scott Merrylees
Martin Jenkins is the chairman of the Yorkshire Maggie's fund-raising board. Picture Scott Merrylees
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Work is due to start on Yorkshire’s first Maggie’s cancer centre this year. Catherine Scott meets the man in charge of the project.

Martin Jenkins is the first person to admit that the dream of bringing a Maggie’s Cancer Centre to Yorkshire has pretty much taken over his life.

Maggie Keswick Jencks the woman behind Maggie's centres

Maggie Keswick Jencks the woman behind Maggie's centres

The senior partner of Deloittes in Leeds has even taken a three-month sabbatical from his top accountancy job to ensure that the project starts before the end of the year.

It is no mean feat. Martin and his fellow committee members, have to raise £6 million to build the centre and cover the running costs for the first two years.

“We are extremely lucky in Yorkshire to have some of the best cancer clinicians and treatments available in the world,” says Martin.

“However those living with a cancer diagnosis and their families deserve a place that gives them the space, support and respite they need, alongside the clinical treatments. A space that can remind people they have a life to continue living and enjoying. This is what we are aiming to bring to Leeds for the people of Yorkshire.”

Martin admits that when he was approached to chair the Yorkshire campaign to bring a Maggie’s to Leeds he had never heard of the charity. But once he researched their work he didn’t hesitate.

“It came at a time when I was looking to do something beyond what I did in business,” he says.

“I felt I wanted to contribute more to society. I’d had quite a few suggestions and this one intrigued me.” As well as having had relative with cancer, a young colleague of Martin’s had just received a devastating cancer diagnosis out of the blue. “Like most people I had been touched by cancer and very recently which meant when I was approached by Maggie’s I spoke to people and really got a sense of the impact a cancer diagnosis had on people, it made me realise just how important it was to have a Maggie’s Centre in Leeds to complement the fantastic NHS clinical expertise we have here.”

Maggie’s provides free practical, emotional and social support to people with cancer and their family and friends, following the ideas about cancer care originally laid out by founder Maggie Keswick Jencks.

In May 1993, Maggie was told that her breast cancer had returned and was given two to three months to live. She joined an advanced chemotherapy trial and lived for another 18 months. During that time, she and her husband Charles Jencks worked closely with her medical team, which included oncology nurse, Laura Lee, now Maggie’s Chief Executive, to develop a new approach to cancer care. In order to live more positively with cancer, Maggie and Charles believed you needed information that would allow you to be an informed participant in your medical treatment, stress-reducing strategies, psychological support and the opportunity to meet other people in similar circumstances in a relaxed domestic atmosphere.

In November 1996, the first Maggie’s Centre opened in Edinburgh and what Maggie had planned became real.

Maggie’s Centres offer a unique blend of free, practical, emotional and social support for people with cancer and for those closest to them. And all in a building designed to be calming and peaceful, a home from home with a welcoming kitchen table at the heart. There are already 20 Maggie’s Centres, with two more set to open in 2017 and nine more in the pipeline.

Yorkshire is one of few counties in the UK without a Maggie’s Centre, despite being the largest

“However that’s set to change,” says Martin who moved to Yorkshire more than 30 years ago after meeting his wife, aYorkshirewoman, at university.

“I feel like an honorary Yorkshireman having lived here most my life.” It makes him even more passionate about helping the county’s cancer sufferers.

“Maggie’s Yorkshire will be a place where people affected by cancer can have a cup of tea in a calming environment and talk to an experienced cancer support expert about anything they feel they need to talk about. Where they can enjoy the serenity of the space and gardens knowing they are amongst people who understand their journey, and who can provide practical help too. A quiet and safe space just minutes away from the main oncology area of St James’s University Hospital. I believe everyone on a cancer journey deserves to have the support of a Maggie’s Centre.”

So far Maggie’s Yorkshire has received support from a wide range of sources including charitable trusts, individual major gifts, corporate donations, events and support from individuals and groups in the local community.”

Enough money has been raised to ensure that building work can start before the end of this year and hopefully seeing its doors open before the end of 2018.One of Britain’s most innovative design practices, Heatherwick Studio has been given the job of designing the centre.

“We’ve secured Charity of the Year partnerships with two major corporates in the area; first direct and DLA Piper,” says Martin, who has a son and daughter both at university. “However, now there is much more to do. We now need all the support we can get to raise at least another £1 million to allow us to open the doors of the Centre once it is built.”

As well as corporate fund-raising and planning, Martin is not scared to do some fund-raising himself having walked the Cleveland Way for Maggie’s.”

A year ago our sister paper the Yorkshire Evening Post launched its A Million for Maggie’s campaign to help make thre dream of a Maggie’s Centre in Leeds become a reality. Since then they have raised hundreds of thousands of pounds but you can still help. You could take on a personal challenge, organise bake offs, concerts, charity quizzes or other events while donating the proceeds to our appeal. 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.