Inspirational Harborough couple who have already raised over £300,000 supporting cancer patients are launching their biggest mission yet
Husband and wife team Andy and Sally Anderson want to raise a further £500,000
An indomitable Harborough couple who have already raised over £300,000 supporting cancer patients are launching their biggest mission yet - as they set out to help rake in another £500,000.
Inspirational husband and wife team Andy and Sally Anderson have helped to transform the chemotherapy suite at Leicester Royal Infirmary for patients after launching their highly-successful GEMS charity in 2012.
They are now linking arms with the Leicestershire Hospitals Charity Fundraising Appeal 2021/22 in a bid to generate a staggering half a million pounds to improve and extend the vital patient unit at the LRI.
Taking valuable time out from her round-the-clock fundraising effort, Sally, 57, told the Harborough Mail: “We’ve worked non-stop over the last nine years to support cancer patients at the LRI.
“But this is our biggest campaign and toughest challenge yet.
“And I must say that I lie awake in bed on a night at times wondering how the heck we’re going to do it!
“But both Andy and I are determined that we’ll get there,” said Sally, of Kibworth Beauchamp.
“It’s going to be great working alongside the Leicestershire Hospitals Charity.
“But we’ll be working flat out to bring in over half of our joint £500,000 target ourselves – and a fair chunk over half as well.
“We are setting out to extend the LRI’s chemotherapy unit by converting the balcony into a top-notch conservatory-type area.
“And we are aiming to achieve our massive goal by next summer – so we haven’t got long to do it, every minute is precious.”
Sally and Andy, 67, founded GEMS in 2012 after being fired up by four priceless friends all battling breast cancer.
“They were all local ladies and they are called Gilly, Elizabeth, Meg and Sarah – which is why we named our charity GEMS in tribute to them.
“Tragically three of them have passed away,” said Sally.
“Sarah was not even 40 and left two girls behind, Gilly was in her late 40s and had three children and Elizabeth was in her early 60s and she had two grown-up daughters.
“They were all beautiful people, the best.
“We used to visit them regularly at the LRI to support them.
“The staff and nurses at the hospital do an amazing job – they are so positive in such a tough environment.
“But we quickly found that the hospital’s facilities and environment could be better,” said Sally, a mum-of-two and grandma-of-three.
“One day I was looking for a pillow for Gilly and I couldn’t find one.
“So we leapt into action.
“We have focused on making life better, more comfortable, more homely and friendly for the patients.
“We’ve bought window blinds, a lot of new equipment and furniture and completely refurbished the chemotherapy suite’s day room/waiting room.
“We’ve also revamped the balcony so that people can sit out now.”
GEMS has also provided the LRI with electronically-controlled therapy chairs to slash the risk of bed sores and make patients far more comfortable.
“It must be the scariest thing in the world to be told that you’ve got cancer.
“Can you imagine hearing those terrifying words in the cold light of day?
“These patients are enduring the most stressful and traumatic times of their lives – and the treatment is harsh too,” said Sally, who used to work in further education.
“Cancer has a brutal impact on not just the patient but on their loved ones and friends too – everybody.
“It turns your life upside down – just like that.
“And there’s not a family in this country that’s not been touched by cancer at some time or other.
“So we want to do our best to make life easier and better for patients, to improve their experiences in hospital and their day-to-day lives.
“We helped to put up wallpaper showing enchanting lavender fields in France.
“One grateful woman patient told me that she’d actually lost herself in the moment admiring those fields and it took her mind off everything else,” said Sally.
“It was very emotional and brought a tear to my eye to hear that and know we were helping to make such a decisive difference.
“We have helped to put in brighter, cheerier, more upbeat colours.
“We’ve already raised over £300,000.
“We have staged so many fundraising events and our local pubs in the Kibworth area have been there for us all the way.
“Our two other trustees, families and friends have been incredible and we just go powering on.
“We held a special charity night at the Cuisine of India restaurant in Wigston on Monday night and brought in another £2,000!
“People might say that they can only chip in a fiver,” said Sally.
“But every single penny counts.
“And we appreciate every donation, every bit of help.
“Even our grandsons Noah, who’s seven, and Ethan, who’s nine, give us their pocket money and get behind us bless them.
“We are hoping to go into schools in Harborough and maybe stage a competition as well as working with local football clubs to help mark our 10th anniversary in 2022 and boost our coffers.
“Running GEMS plays such an enormous part in my life and Andy’s life, we never switch off.
“But we wouldn’t have it any other way.
“The families of Gilly, Elizabeth, Meg and Sarah are all so supportive, they’re just magnificent.
“And those very special friends of ours live on every day through us and through what we are striving to achieve in their names,” said Sally.
“This is their unique legacy – and we just hope that we are making them proud.”
And to top it all super Sally has just been crowned the East Midlands winner of ITV’s iconic Pride of Britain Awards.
“I was amazed and very humbled to win that award.
“It’s huge to be recognised for all the hard work, the hours and the effort we’ve put in over the years,” she said.
“But this isn’t just for me.
“This amazing accolade also honours Andy, our stunning GEMS team and all of our top-notch supporters across Harborough and beyond.
“The Pride of Britain Awards also gives us an even bigger, more high-profile platform and springboard as we battle to hit that £500,000 target.
“And we are going to need every bit of help we can get,” smiled Sally.
You can put your shoulder to the wheel and help Sally and Andy get over the line by visiting their website to support them here: https://www.gemscharity.com/And you will find them on Facebook here: https://www.facebook.com/GEMSLeicestershire/