Two Yorkshire women have dedicated 40 years to helping the fight against cancer in the region. Catherine Scott reports.
Forty years ago two women decided to start fund-raising for Yorkshire Cancer Research, never thinking that they would still be helping to run it four decades on and helping to raise more than £700,000.
Rosalind Peters, 67, and Fay Eastman, 73, are members of the charity’s Leeds Jewish Committee. Rosalind decided to join the group at the age of 27, two years after her mother died from ovarian cancer. Despite getting married, having children and working in the family business, her passion for the cause led her to become secretary and then chairman, and she has been either chairman or co-chairman ever since.
“We had, and still have, very understanding husbands who didn’t mind that we met every fortnight and spent so much time organising fund-raising events and collections. In a way, raising money for research into cancer helped with the death of my mother.
“We also enjoyed the community element. Being involved in the charity helped to bring Jewish people in Leeds together.”
Fay originally joined the committee because her husband was a member, but the number of men in the group started to dwindle and the women soon took over.
“I knew members of the committee from going to events and the first thing that attracted me was the social aspect. There is a strong following of the Jewish religion in Leeds and joining the committee was something to do as a couple.
“But cancer research is also a cause that really gets to you. My aunt suffered from cancer and since then it has taken over and become very close to home”, she explains.
“My great-niece Charlotte was 21 when she was diagnosed with Ewing’s Sarcoma, and she is now the face of the Teenage Cancer Trust.”
Ewing’s Sarcoma is a kind of bone cancer which mainly affects children.
Rosalind and Fay both recall a huge concert at Leeds Town Hall in the 1970s, which gave them their first taste of fundraising. Fay and her husband Geoff were heavily involved in the organisation of the event, which featured the Mannecor Choir from Holland, the Honley Male Voice Choir and a brass band.
One of the committee’s most successful annual events was the “Jewish Women of the Year” awards, which featured famous names such as actress Kay Mellor, showbusiness journalist Francine Cohen and the late Lady Amelie Jacobovits, wife of former Chief Rabbi Emeritus of the British Commonwealth, Rabbi Lord Immanuel Jacobovits.
“We used to hold big collections on Briggate and I remember my parents spending half a day counting money in a spare room at the Odeon Cinema,” says Fay. “That’s a poignant memory for me. Collections were a big thing back then but we haven’t been able to do those in recent years. Instead, we’ve concentrated on big events.”
The committee recently held a Pro-Am Tennis Tournament at the David Lloyd Centre, sponsored by Jet2 and featured Pat Cash, Jonathan Marray, Danny Sapsford and James Auckland. The event ended with a dinner at the Etz Chaim Synagogue and raised around £18,500 for Yorkshire Cancer Research and the Cancer Treatment and Research Trust. The committee now raises around £13,500 for Yorkshire Cancer Research every year.
“It’s getting harder to find different ideas that appeal to such a small community and all different age groups, but we’ve got a couple of irons in the fire,” says Rosalind. “There’s also a bit of new blood on the committee – they work hard and we try to point them in the right direction and keep everyone stimulated.”
Fay added: “I can’t do as much as I used to but we still get a great feeling when we know we’ve held a successful event and raised a lot of money. There’s a satisfaction in knowing we are making progress in the fight against cancer too. I’ll keep going as long as everyone else does. All being well, we’ll be here for years to come.”
Sally Crerar, head of community fundraising at Yorkshire Cancer Research, said: “It is amazing to think that after so many years Rosalind and Fay are still working year on year on new, fun, innovative events to raise funds for Yorkshire Cancer Research. We are eternally grateful for the time they spend helping our charity.”