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Deanne and Annette became friends after meeting at a breast cancer support group in 2015. Since then, they’ve enjoyed hosting regular fundraisers together – including their annual Afternoon Tea.
We met in 2015 at a cancer support group. Annette was about six months ahead of me in her treatment and had finished everything by the time I joined, but it was so lovely to connect with someone who was closer to my own age.
Even though I was 41 when I was diagnosed, I was still deemed to be ‘young’ for someone with breast cancer – which I took as a compliment! There’s actually about 10 years between the two of us, but we still clicked right away.
Ever since then, we’ve turned to one another whenever we need someone, and we’ve remained really good friends. We’re also both involved with Breast Cancer Now’s Moving Forward programme, as well as a lot of fundraising activities for various charities.
As well as working together, we like to fit in a night out where we can, we play netball, and Deanne’s actually my little girl’s godmother.
Raising money for charity is really the cherry on top of everything else: it’s something we’re both passionate about, and – by combining our efforts – we're pretty good at it!
I think it’s safe to say that we’re friends for life, and that something good came out of what was originally a really bad experience.
We always host our Afternoon Teas at Annette’s house, because she’s got a fantastic place in the countryside with a huge garden. It’s so beautiful – you feel like you’re at a tearoom when it’s all set up!
We do a combination of home-baked and shop-bought goods, always making sure there’s enough things that are vegan or gluten-free so that everyone can have something. We also get some bottles of fizz for the guests that want to have a drink.
As well as offering the food and drink, we usually raise a bit more money with a raffle and the games that Breast Cancer Now provides in the fundraising kit.
We tend to divide up the jobs equally, but we know which ones best suit our skills. Deanne is definitely more organised, and I’m jealous of how she’s able to keep track of everything with her spreadsheets and her folders, but I think I make a pretty good host.
That said, we do split the waitressing duties between us! We go around and serve our guests, and usually rope our mums in to help a bit too.
Both of us do quite a bit of networking for our fundraisers. We drag everyone we know along! We’re lucky to have friends and family who really support us, so we’re able to have quite a few people attending without inviting anyone we don’t know that well.
If it’s your first time hosting an Afternoon Tea, I’d say keep it small. Don’t feel that you have to invite millions of people – just keep it simple. Even if you end up serving tea or coffee and a slice of cake, what’s important is that you enjoy your event and raise a little bit of money.
Keep track of what you do raise, too. Make sure all the finances are in order if you have people donating on the day.
It’s also worth keeping in mind that other people might want to help! We’ve had people bring along cakes or extra sandwiches before, and it’s always been brilliant. So, if someone asks if they can contribute anything, let them know what you need.
Breast Cancer Now provides such a useful service for people right from diagnosis through treatment, and it’s vital to do fundraising events like Afternoon Tea to keep it going.
We’ve both benefitted from the services, not only in terms of moving forward from breast cancer, but also in forming a life-long friendship. But there are so many people at different stages of their journey and with different needs, and Breast Cancer Now is there every step of the way.
It’s especially important now, following the pandemic, when so many women have missed out on diagnosis and treatment. The more people can do to raise money and awareness, the better.
I think we were very fortunate to meet one another because of breast cancer and, while no experience of cancer is good, ours was definitely made better because we had each other. We’re both aware of that, and I think it’s why we’re so passionate about giving back.
If Deanne and Annette's story has inspired you to host an Afternoon Tea of your own, we'd love to have you on board! Sign up today and we'll send you everything you need to start the party.