Money is for Donegal

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After major controversy earlier in the week the Irish Cancer Society has moved to confirm the €350,000 raised at the Relay for Life event in Letterkenny recently is being spent directly on cancer patients and services in Donegal, and in investment in cancer research.

This follows queries raised by an Inishowen woman, a cancer sufferer, who last week approached the ‘Derry Journal’ after she said she had learned from some local cancer support groups that as little as 7,000 of the 350,000 euro raised in the county was to be spent here.

John McCormack, CEO of the Irish Cancer Society, said he is happy to confirm to these groups and to the people of Donegal that the €350,000 raised in the first-ever Relay for Life will be used to support cancer patients in Donegal.

“We are very happy to tell people in Donegal about how their extraordinary generosity is making a difference to cancer patients and their families in Donegal as well as to the fight against cancer through investment in cancer research”, he said.

He said he also wanted to emphasise very strongly that the Irish Cancer Society is not a state-funded organisation.

In a comprehensive setting out of how the Irish Cancer Society supports cancer patients in the county, Mr. McCormack outlined how the Society is investing considerable resources in supporting cancer patients in Donegal.

“This year we are delighted to be providing a new Daffodil Centre in Letterkenny General Hospital. Daffodil Centres are the first service of their kind in the country and they provide support, in the hospital itself, for cancer patients, their families and their carers and the public – anyone in fact who has a query or a concern about cancer. Building the centre will cost the Society €125,000 and we will be employing a full-time cancer nurse to run the Centre, as well as training volunteers to support it. This service is being funded entirely by the Society with no support from the Government or the HSE”, he said.

Mr. McCormack said the Irish Cancer Society provides a free night-nursing service for cancer patients, in their own home, at the end of their cancer journey. In 2011 the cost of this service, across the country, was €2.4 m and due to a doubling of demand for the service in Donegal this year, it is expected that €60,000 will be spent by the Society to support patients at the end of their journey.

“We know from our own research that transport to and from hospital for cancer treatment is a huge issue for many patients and we have developed Care to Drive, a free transport service, for cancer patients. We are now running this service from 8 hospitals nationwide, including Letterkenny. The Donegal service is costing more than €7,000 to run and again because of demand, our spend will grow this year”, he said.

Mr McCormack also revealed that the Society’s financial aid programme for cancer patients who are experiencing financial hardship as a result of a cancer diagnosis, has supported a number of cancer patients in the county in the last year when over €30,000 of the fund went to Donegal.

Mr. McCormack said that as well as the services delivered directly to cancer patients and their families in Donegal, the Society is also working to raise awareness of cancer, to train volunteers in health promotion and cancer prevention, and to

“We know that the Relay event means that more people in Donegal now know about our services and we expect demand for them to increase. Thanks to the generosity of the Donegal community, through Relay, we will be able to grow our support to those who need it”, he said.

Mr. McCormack said the Irish Cancer Society is the largest voluntary funder of cancer research in Ireland and can only provide this funding because of fundraising.

He also acknowledged the work being done by local cancer groups in the community who he said are doing invaluable work in their own community, and which is also being supported by the Society, through advice and often through grants to provide counselling, for instance.

Mr. McCormack said that Relay for Life is a hugely important: “ ‘Relay’ is the way that a community comes together to fight back against cancer. In Donegal the community has risen up in response in an incredible way. This kind of response will make a difference to cancer, not only in Donegal, but right across the country and for that, we thank the people of Donegal from the bottom of our heart”.