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From Calendar Girls to Community Group - Gayle’s story

The Bloodwise logo. Bloodwise appears in black text against a white background
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Updated 25 Nov 2019

It’s been 15 months of Calendar Girls the Musical performances, and what a time we’ve had!

The musical has visited 32 theatres across the UK and this weekend it finishes where the first performance took place back in 2008 - Chichester Festival Theatre.

The original Calendar Girls started fundraising for Bloodwise in 1998 when Angela Baker's husband, John was diagnosed with non-Hodgkin lymphoma. John sadly died after a few months of treatment. In the months following John’s death, Angela and her friends created their now infamous alternative WI calendar! ‘The Girls’ have raised over £5 million for Bloodwise and we’re thrilled to announce that the musical has raised an incredible £200,000 to add to this total!

Over 400 Bloodwise volunteers helped at the collections after the shows, wearing their red ‘beating blood cancer’ T-shirts and holding a bucket. We’ve met incredible individuals and been supported by volunteers across the country who really got stuck in, often volunteering at multiple shows in various locations – we can’t say thank you enough!

Here's the story of our brilliant supporter, Gayle, who not only hosted all our Calendar Girls collections in Salford but has now set up a new volunteer Community Group in Manchester. Gayle first came across Bloodwise when her dad, Derek, was diagnosed with blood cancer in 2017. Gayle says, "In March 2017 my hero and best friend, my daddy, Derek Shaw was rushed into hospital with very severe flu like symptoms. Just one week later he was diagnosed with both acute lymphoblastic leukaemia and Burkitt lymphoma and started intensive chemotherapy the following day.

After six months in his new home on the Haematology Ward of Salford Royal Hospital in Manchester, and six months of the most invasive chemotherapy, on 6th September 2017 my hero lost his courageous fight and passed away surrounded by family. My entire world was completely devastated, never to be the same again.

I have always volunteered for various charities over the years, but after losing my Daddy I needed to help others suffering with this life changing and devastating disease. Bloodwise was the only choice for me and has been the best choice ever. “

Gayle’s first Bloodwise activity started at the shows in Salford, where she led a team to raise over £6,000. Gayle and her daughter Caitlin baked cakes for the cast and the other volunteers. “Managing the bucket collections was an absolute privilege. Every evening was great fun meeting both the cast and also people who not only donated but also shared their own personal experiences of blood cancer, which for me was a very humbling experience. “

Not content with simply ad-hoc volunteering, Gayle went on to establish the first Bloodwise Community Group earlier this year. Gayle describes founding the group as “not only a way I could continue to help both fundraise and build awareness of Bloodwise, but also a way of keeping the memory of my hero alive. Since day one of volunteering for Bloodwise my passion for the charity keeps on growing. For me, it’s not just a fundraising group. It’s part of me and I’ll continue to help in any way I can.”

The group have raised over £2,000 since they started from all sorts of activities including bakes sales, marathon marshalling, collection tins and everything in between. They continue to go from strength to strength and are very excited for what 2020 will bring.

We are so proud to have supporters like Gayle, and all those who like her gave their all to ensure we maximised this wonderful opportunity the inimitable Calendar Girls secured for our charity.

If you’d like to fundraise for Bloodwise in your local area, email hello@bloodwise.org.uk or call 0808 169 5155. Our opening hours are Monday to Friday, 9am to 5pm, please leave a message outside these hours.

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