Thirty years ago, The Big C was barely ever called by its full name but that narrative changed when my mother Frances Winegarten z”l together with Susan Shipman turned their personal experiences of cancer and founded Chai Cancer Care.
Earlier diagnosis and medical advances over the past three decades have meant that those touched by cancer are now thankfully more likely than ever to be living for longer, albeit with physical and emotional challenges. So the demand for Chai’s specialised services was increasing. In fact, twelve months ago, we were planning a further expansion at our flagship centre in Hendon to meet the demand…and then Covid happened.
The pandemic has had an impact on all charities but for those affected by cancer there has been an added dimension. Cancer became ‘The Forgotten C’ as surgeries and treatments were put on hold and screening and diagnoses delayed. Chai’s income dropped by 40% as fundraising activities were cancelled. Meanwhile demand for our services was going up. The gap was widening and with no possibility of an annual dinner to fill the hole, we needed to find an effective alternative and chose to reach out to the community through a crowdfunding platform – ‘The Big Campaign’.
We had never done this before. We had no idea what the response would be. But over 36 hours we saw the true democratisation of giving. To date over 13,600 donations have come in. Only five were for more than £10,000. The rest was everything from £2 upwards, raised from bake sales, pocket money, Bar/Bat Mitzvah gifts, in memory of loved ones, in thanks for the good health of others. For any reason and none, the community was galvanised and supported us in droves – and we cannot thank you enough. The whole community put their hand in their collective pockets and supported Chai in a way that has never been done before – raising the outstanding total of over £3 million. At Chai, there is no ‘Forgotten C’. And now we can be sure that Chai will continue to be there with its ‘Big C of Care’, thanks to the community’s big response to The Big Campaign.