The South Tipperary Cancer Support Centre in Clonmel is a fantastic resource which should be replicated in every town in Ireland, award-winning broadcaster Áine Lawlor told a huge crowd at this year’s annual fundraising lunch.
Over 550 supporters were in Hotel Minella for the gala event, one of the biggest crowds to ever attend the CARE fundraising event in its 14-year history and a testament to the regard in which the centre is held as well as the generosity of all involved.
As MC for the day, Roisin Kiely, put it in relation to the visionaries who first put the centre in place, the purpose of the annual lunch - which is CARE’s only fundraiser of the year - “is to maintain their dream of a centre where people can drop in and have a chat and talk to people that are going through the same process they are”.
And of course it’s become much more than that, now offering various therapies and counselling and other facilities to cancer patients and their families, all on a free, confidential basis and reflecting the name, Cancer Aftercare Relaxation Education (CARE).
Guest speaker for the day was Áine Lawlor who faced her own fight with cancer and detailed the process in an acclaimed two-part television documentary.
She visited the CARE centre itself earlier on Friday and paid tribute to all involved in founding it, running it and supporting it. “I do think the centre is a fantastic place and I just wish there was a resource like that in every town in Ireland,” she told the gathering, pointing out that cancer patients often spend much time being brave around family and friends.
“The fact that there is a place where someone can go where they don’t have to be brave and other people can just be nice to them and let them not be brave for a moment… I think is a fantastic resource.”
Years ago, she said, people with cancer tended to retreat “behind closed doors” as there was a stigma about the disease but now there is much more support while treatment options are more successful. “More and more of us will survive. There are now more people who have survived cancer than have died from cancer.”
For more people than in the past, Ms Lawlor said, cancer is going to be “an episode” in their life rather than something that ends their life. “We as a community and we as people might have to endure a lot from this horrible, horrible illness but we can stand up and we can battle it in life and battle it in death… and the way we’ll get there is something like 550 people at lunches like this, because that is the only way progress has been made so far.”
One of the trustees of the CARE centre on Wellington Street, Anne Fitzgerald, pointed out that it’s a voluntary service, with two salaried employees, with all money raised going towards its day-to-day running.
“Last year was the biggest year yet,” she said. “Over 3,500 people attended the centre. On average 15-20 people use the services every day.”
All of the services and therapies have been carefully chosen “to provide healing and wellbeing,” Ms Fitzgerald said, with a new service coming in April in conjunction with the Irish Cancer Society. She paid tribute to all who help and support the centre itself, and all who put so much time into organising the hugely successful lunch.
Along with enjoying their meal, those present were also treated to a fashion show, a choral service and a number of draws and raffles with excellent prizes which CARE’s “hostesses” and others managed to garner from donors the length and breadth of the country, again a tribute to the work of the centre in Clonmel.
As Áine Lawlor concluded in her speech: “It’s our spirit and our courage and our love and our strength that has made this centre and will make the battle against cancer ultimately victorious.”