Top recognition for Louth Run For Life chairman

The chairman behind Louth’s much-loved ‘Run for Life’ has scooped a national award from Cancer Research UK in recognition of his outstanding contribution to the cause.

Simon West

Each year, the charity gives out Flame of Hope awards acknowledging remarkable efforts in volunteering made by people from all walks of life.

This week, Simon West, 52, from Grimoldby, was named an Honorary Fellow at a ceremony in Nottingham, hosted by Cancer Research UK’s executive director of policy, information and communications, Ian Walker.

An audience at the Colwick Hall Hotel heard how Simon has overseen a dedicated committee for the last 16 years, with the group recently seeing their fundraising total surpass £500,000.

Simon West

Simon, head of finance at NHS North East Lincolnshire Clinical Commissioning Group, explained afterwards that he received the award very much on behalf of the committee and the community.

Simon said: “I always play my part down because we’re a committee and I’m just the mouthpiece. I go on the radio or put a few posts on our Facebook page. So it’s my name out there, but there are 20 others on our committee, over 70 volunteers who regularly support us, the companies that give us funding so that all the money we raise goes to Cancer Research UK, then the people turning up.

“If any of those parts didn’t work then we wouldn’t be doing what we’re doing, so I don’t think the award’s for me, it’s more for the committee and the community.”

Simon received the award just days before the eighth anniversary of his older brother Gavin’s death following a battle with leukaemia. The bank manager in Leeds was 47.

Simon West

“Gavin was diagnosed in July 2013,” said Simon. “He basically went into hospital just feeling tired, thinking he’d had an insect bite, but they diagnosed acute myeloid leukaemia there and then.

“He was in for treatment straightaway and ended up having three rounds of chemotherapy. He had two bone marrow matches ready for a transplant.

“Unfortunately, he got a bit of an illness and infection whilst he was having his third round of chemo. With that, he got a pneumonia-related illness and died from it in November 2013.

“To cap it all, in January 2014 my wife, Maddie, was diagnosed with breast cancer. She had a lumpectomy at the end of March followed by radiotherapy. Thankfully, she’s now been clear of cancer for the last seven years.”

Maddie, 53, a wellbeing officer, has since founded ‘Embrace’, a breast cancer support group in the local area.

Meanwhile, Simon has continued chairing the volunteers who have together grown Louth’s Run for Life from 300 to 1,400 participants and raised thousands for charity.

The group has not only been responsible for organising what is now a flagship event, but various other fundraising initiatives. It even set up highly successful donation stations at the Louth branch of C&R Removals while unable to carry out their normal activities during the pandemic.

With Louth Run for Life having returned in September and the group having celebrated surpassing the £500,000 mark, Simon said the next challenge was to see if they could achieve £1 million.

He said he would like to see them reach that milestone by involving even more of the communityand he has ambitions to organise other events, including a bike ride and Louth Santa run.

Michelle Mitchell, Cancer Research UK’s chief executive, said: “The past 18 months have shown us, more than ever, how fortunate we are to have the support of our incredible volunteers. 

“The Flame of Hope awards give us the opportunity to celebrate and thank our dedicated volunteers for the fantastic work they continue to do. 

“One in two of us will get cancer in our lifetime, and we can all play a part to help beat it. Cancer Research UK’s pioneering work into the prevention, diagnosis and treatment of cancer has helped save millions of lives.

“But this has only been possible thanks to the commitment of our supporters and volunteers, without whom, we’d be unable to fund outstanding scientists, doctors and nurses.” 

Simon was among a total of 80 individuals and groups from across the UK recognised at the recent awards ceremony. The 2021 Flame of Hope awards is currently being held at six locations across the UK throughout November.

Michael Jarvis, Cancer Research UK spokesperson for Lincolnshire, said: “This is the first year we’ve celebrated our Flame of Hope award winners with events across the UK, making the occasions more personal for our amazing supporters. 

“These awards are our way of honouring incredible people, like Simon, who give their time freely to raise money for research and promote greater awareness of the disease, and yet ask for nothing in return.

“Every step we make towards beating cancer relies on every pound, every hour and every person.

“It’s thanks to the support of the fundraising public and our amazing army of volunteers that we can continue to make a real difference, and bring forward the day when all cancers are cured.”

To find out more about Louth Run For Life, visit Louth Run For Life’s Facebook page.