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Meet Edith Oakley, Bloodwise's longest-serving volunteer

The Bloodwise logo. Bloodwise appears in black text against a white background
Posted by
05 Jun 2018

Edith's been at the heart of Bloodwise since the charity began. And at 98 years old, she's just as committed to beating blood cancer today as she was in 1959.

Edith Oakley, Bloodwise's longest-serving volunteer

During June's volunteers' week, we'd like to bring you the story of one our most dedicated volunteers, Edith Oakley. Like many others, Edith's association with Bloodwise sadly began with the loss of a loved one. Determined that others shouldn't have to go through the same heartache, Edith began fundraising and volunteering in 1959 – and today, aged 98, she's still going strong.

Edith's story so far

The daughter of a war hero, Edith was faced with her father's early death from TB when she was just 15 years old. She had to work hard to help her mother manage the emotional and financial burden on their family.

Laurie and Edith Oakley pictured in formal dress at an event

Edith met her partner Laurie at the local cinema just before the outbreak of World War II. They married in December 1942 and put their names down for a council house, for which they eventually waited for 7 years and 6 months! Edith left work in 1944 to give birth but heartbreakingly, the baby was stillborn. The couple were blessed with two more children, Rosemary Ann in 1947 and John Richard (pictured below) in March 1949.

John and Rosemary Oakley pictured as children

But Edith's heartache continued as John became unwell in  September 1958 at just 9 years old.

"John was such a happy boy. He loved being outside playing football. This was his passion and he was so good that Arsenal were looking for him to join their academy. John became unwell and spent several weeks in the local hospital before being moved to Great Ormond Street Children's Hospital and was diagnosed as having leukaemia. I was devastated; my world crumbled.

John died on 2nd June 1959. I was hurt so much. I will never really get over it."

At the time of John's death there was no treatment for leukaemia, and there had been no research into the disease. The specialist at Great Ormond Street advised Edith that the average lifespan following a leukaemia diagnosis was just 9 months. One Tuesday John was playing cricket – the next he passed away.

Edith and Laurie begin fundraising

Shortly after John's death, Edith and Laurie learned that a doctor at Great Ormond Street had advised a grieving parent to raise £5,000 for a research unit. Laurie contacted this parent and the Radlett branch of Leukaemia Research (as the charity was then known) was born.

Even before the group was officially registered, Edith and Laurie threw themselves wholeheartedly into fundraising. Edith made and sold aprons; the couple ran jumble sales and bazaars; Laurie ran a raffle every week at work until he retired. 

Edith has never stepped back from her fundraising role and the Radlett and Borehamwood branch (as it is now known) has raised over £236,000 towards blood cancer research. Edith has worked tirelessly for Bloodwise, and continues to do so at 98 years old!

Inspiring the next generation of fundraisers

Edith's passed on her fundraising passion to her granddaughter Sarah, who recently completed a 26-mile walk in scorching heat to raise funds for Bloodwise.

From everyone at Bloodwise, we'd like to say a massive thank you to Edith for her many years of support – here's to many more!

Volunteering with Bloodwise is immensely rewarding – and great fun. Whether you can give just a few minutes or a longer-term commitment, we’d love you to join our volunteer community. Learn more about volunteering for Bloodwise.



What a beautiful, inspiring story. Thank you for all you've done to help Bloodwise continue their research to help those affected by blood cancer Edith!

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