When Keith, 48 from Kettering, was diagnosed with hairy cell leukaemia, a type of blood cancer, he turned his love of football into a chance to raise funds and awareness about stem cell donation.
Support from my football club
I was diagnosed with hairy cell leukaemia on 11 July 2018 - as a football fan, this date couldn’t have been worse. A few hours later England lost in the semi-final of the World Cup! It’s a day I will never forget. However, that’s where I tried to leave the negativity and was determined to be positive throughout my treatment and recovery.
As a playing member of Thrapston Venturas Football Club in Northamptonshire, my teammates wanted to show their support for me by arranging a charity event. As I’ve been playing for the club since the mid-1980s, the idea was for the present team to play against a team of my former club mates who also wanted to show their support.
Why I chose to raise funds for Anthony Nolan
When asked who I would like to raise money for, I had no hesitation to nominate Anthony Nolan. Ironically, I’ve been on the stem cell register for many years before my diagnosis, so falling foul of blood cancer myself, the work of Anthony Nolan became even more important to me.
I was keen to raise as much money as possible from the event, so created my JustGiving page a few weeks before the match. I started with a £1,000 target which we smashed even before the game. This was down to a Facebook campaign where my friends and work colleagues shared the JustGiving link.
I was overwhelmed not only by the hugely kind donations but also by such supportive comments. It’s in the darkest moments in your life that you see the best in humanity and see just how many people really care for and about you.
Encouraging young men to join the stem cell register
In the weeks leading up to the match, I was not only keen to raise as much as possible, but as most of my teammates are aged between 16–30: they were the ideal age for joining the stem cell register, giving them the chance to support to me in a different way.
Before the match, I held an event at the football club and shared videos from Anthony Nolan to show what’s involved in becoming a donor. It was important to me to encourage people to join the register and improve the chances of those in need of a lifesaving transplant.
Working with the Anthony Nolan Fundraising Team
I contacted Anthony Nolan to explain what I had planned and to ask for assistance to maximise the potential for the evening. I was put in touch with Rowena from the Fundraising Team who was fantastic from the moment we first spoke. Rowena sent me Anthony Nolan merchandise to advertise the upcoming match locally. I was given banners, balloons, posters, stickers, collection buckets to give the charity as much coverage as possible on the night of the game!
Playing the match of a lifetime
Match day approached, and the teams were announced. As I had been playing for the team for so long and had played with so many players over the years, the squads were pretty big. The special touch for me was that both my son, Connor who is a member of Thrapston Venturas FC and my daughter, Bethen who currently plays for Tooting Bec Ladies FC wanted to play in the game.
It was an unmissable, once in a lifetime opportunity for me to play alongside both my children, how could I not play? So what if I had leukaemia and my chemo only finished a few weeks earlier. Cancer was most certainly not going to stop me missing out.
I kicked off and played the first 15 minutes in a game I will never forget for so many reasons. I still had to be made to come off early as I wanted to play the whole game. Luckily my consultant hadn’t turned up, as I’m sure he would have dragged me off otherwise.
Amazing support on the night
The support from spectators was absolutely overwhelming and truly humbling. Entry was free, but a £5 donation to Anthony Nolan was required.
On the night, there was a raffle, burger bar and an auction for Northampton Rugby tickets and four tickets for Soccer AM on Sky, which had been kindly donated. All of this helped raise a massive £2,800 on the night, and along with my JustGiving page, this took my fundraising to an impressive £4,500!
It was a truly memorable evening. Not just on a personal level, to see so much love and support shown to me, but to raise so much for Anthony Nolan was such a special feeling.
My advice for fundraisers? Just do it
I would urge anyone who is thinking of raising funds for Anthony Nolan, to just do it, no matter how big or small your event or target is. You’ll be surprised by the amount of support that you’ll get. So many people were so glad that I had taken the time and effort to support such a worthwhile cause.
Many people have been affected by the various forms of blood cancer - they will make your effort so worthwhile and do all they can to support you in turn. The assistance and guidance from all at Anthony Nolan was invaluable. They’re so friendly and professional and make the whole process simple. It’s a great feeling to know that you are making such a worthwhile difference to those that need help in their hour of need.
If you’re keen to kick off your own fundraising event like Keith find out more about how you can support Anthony Nolan’s work at anthonynolan.org/fundraise