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When Maggie’s daughter, Kirsty, was diagnosed with breast cancer, her friends and family rallied around to support her. Their group decided to host a ‘small’ Afternoon Tea for the cause – and it ended up being much bigger than expected!
Last May, my daughter Kirsty was diagnosed with breast cancer at the age of 40. I’ve known a couple of friends who have passed away from breast cancer, but it hadn’t been this close to home before.
It started with her finding a little dent in her boob, which she ignored for a while. She’d had something similar seven or eight years earlier, and when she went through the whole rigamarole of getting it checked out, it turned out to be nothing.
Around the same time, though, my best friend was diagnosed with breast cancer, and that prompted my daughter to go and get checked.
The news affected us a lot – not just Kirsty, but the whole family.
I actually used to work with cancer patients, so all the thoughts about what they went through came back to me. I would lie awake at night worrying about her, about whether the cancer would come back after they’d got rid of it.
At the same time that Kirsty was going through this, she was introduced to Debs: someone else who was having breast cancer treatment. A bunch of us then formed a group around them and we called it ‘Debs’ and Kirsty’s Army’. From there, we started fundraising.
Someone else in the group suggested Breast Cancer Now as the charity to raise money for, but I was familiar with them because of all the leaflets and information you get given at diagnosis. It was suggested that we take part in the Afternoon Tea event, and I sort of took on the planning from there.
I’m pretty good at organisation (I like being in charge!) so I went ahead and started arranging the day. It soon became obvious that we were going to need quite a bit of space, so instead of hosting it at home we moved it to a pub with a huge back garden.
The pub was happy for us to have our Afternoon Tea there, and people were buying food and drink on the day so it worked out well for them as well as us.
When the day finally came, it ended up being much busier than we thought! The pub was serving breakfast from 10 o’clock, but so many people had come along that there was barely anywhere to park by about nine.
We’d set up loads of stalls in the garden. There was a jumble sale, books and crafts, an ice cream van, and even a stall where you could throw wet sponges at the pub landlord. I also made some little chocolate boobs to sell, which got people talking. The variety meant there was plenty of things for kids and adults – something for everyone, really.
The things that raised the most money, however, were the raffle and tombola. We’d been collecting prizes for them in the weeks leading up to the big day – we must’ve had about 80 for the raffle and over 100 for the tombola!
We collected most of the funds through JustGiving, which made everything a bit easier. You don’t have to handle any cash, you just get people to donate online. All in all, I think we ended up raising over £5,000.
It was so lovely to see people enjoying themselves. There were people coming and going all day.
At one point, a lady turned up who I thought I recognised from somewhere. It turned out I had spoken to her at a Maggie’s Centre while Kirsty was having treatment. It just goes to show that all sorts of people will come along if you get the word out enough.
For anyone else thinking of organising an event, my biggest tip would be to get everything in writing. If you organise something with a venue or get promised a raffle prize, make sure you have it written down so you can keep track of it and follow it up later if you need.
It’s also a good idea to start advertising on social media as soon as possible. Use it to tell people about the event, but also mention the sorts of donations you are looking for from local businesses.
You can also ask for a hand if you need it. While we were organising everything, I spoke with the Afternoon Tea team at Breast Cancer Now quite a lot, and they were always so helpful.
They sent us some t-shirts, which we gave to the bar staff to wear, as well as plenty of literature. I’ve already had one person say that their mum ended up checking herself and going to the doctor about a lump she found, all because she picked up one of the leaflets.
Looking back, I could’ve just made a few sandwiches - but this was much more fun!
Whether you go all out like Maggie or stick to hosting a few close friends at home, we'd love to have you join us for an Afternoon Tea! Signing up is easy, and we'll send you everything you need.