Unsung Heros charity work marked with a one thousand pound award

18/02/2010

THE inspirational work of an unsung hero has been recognised with a donation to the charity she helped launch. Anne McMillan was a co-founder of breast cancer support group the Guernsey Pink Ladies and instrumental in organising the sunset coastal walk that attracted 2,000 entrants and raised thousands of pounds for the cause. She died of an unrelated cancer in 2008 but, on behalf of the Guernsey Press, assistant editor Suzanne Heneghan nominated Anne posthumously for the award of Guernsey’s unsung hero at the Awards for Achievement, held earlier this month. GEP article by Zoe Ash

‘Anne was a tireless campaigner on this issue. From the moment she walked into our office to outline the Pink Ladies’ vision for the event, she was a real inspiration. She had a great way of just making things happen,’ she said.

The nomination is shown in full below.
The unsung hero award is sponsored by Specsavers and its public relations executive, Tina Whittaker, said the nomination had been an extremely difficult decision for the judging panel – which included Bailiff Sir Geoffrey Rowland, president of the Association of Guernsey Charities David Farrimond and Specsavers co-founder Dame Mary Perkins.

‘It was clear Mrs McMillan has done amazing work but they thought by giving a posthumous award, it could blur the boundaries of the unsung hero award and possibly open the gates to many more such nominations that would become exceedingly difficult to judge,’ she said.

But they were determined to acknowledge Mrs McMillan’s achievements in some way and, in recognition of the difference her work had made to the community, the company donated £1,000 to the Pink Ladies.

‘The nomination really gave us some food for thought and we are glad to be able to honour Anne’s memory in some way, even if not by giving her the award,’ said Miss Whittaker.

Miss Heneghan said she was delighted at the news that Specsavers had marked the special role that Mrs McMillan had played in raising awareness of breast cancer among women and young girls.

‘I suspected that the nomination would fall outside the boundaries of the unsung heroes award criteria, but I still felt Anne’s efforts deserved some kind of recognition. That is why this donation is such a wonderful surprise and a really generous gesture,’ she said.

Doreen Le Poidevin, one of the other founding members of the Pink Ladies, thanked the Guernsey Press for putting Anne forward for the award.
‘It was lovely for Anne’s enthusiasm and commitment to be recognised in this way. The donation will help us continue the work of the charity she helped establish within the Bailiwick,’ said Mrs Le Poidevin.

Anne McMillan, who died in 2008, helped start local breast cancer support group the Pink Ladies and was a driving force behind the sunset coastal walk fund-raiser.                            (Picture by Adrian Miller, 0793654)

Unsung hero nomination for Anne McMillan

AS SOME of you may know, Anne was a key figure in Guernsey’s local breast cancer charity support group, the Pink Ladies, which she co-founded in 2001. Today it has more than 100 members who continue to help those battling to fight this terrible disease.

I first met Anne in 2007 when, along with a fellow member of the group, she approached me and some of my colleagues at the Guernsey Press to support their plans to stage an ambitious fund-raising event that summer.

The aim was to drum up enough money to help island women pay for specialist post-breast cancer treatment unavailable locally for free. Their vision was a 10.5-mile Pink Ladies’ Sunset Coastal Walk and the result was to amaze us all.

Anne was very much the driving force behind the concept. Somehow she, and her small, hard-working team, managed to find enough volunteers, local business sponsorship, backing and permissions from key individuals and authorities, (as well as time within their own busy lives and schedules) to turn a great idea into a successful reality.

The result was, frankly, staggering. An early estimate of between 300 and 500 entrants was soon replaced as numbers snowballed into a final turnout of more than 2,000 walkers. Yet Anne, characteristically, took all this in her stride.

Women and girls of all ages – including mums, daughters and grandmothers, as well as sisters, workmates, friends and organisations from across the island – all took part in the walk, which also offered a shorter 3.5-mile route option.

Dressed in pink, they thoroughly embraced the event on both a fun and fund-raising level. The walk went on to raise more than £100,000, enough to meet a target that seemed so distant at the start.

Anne, who survived breast cancer, died of a rare and unrelated cancer the following year but her memory was to live on.

Inspired by her commitment and energy and in response to public demand for a second event, the Pink Ladies staged another coastal walk this summer in Anne’s honour and with the kind permission of her family.

On a beautiful early evening in June more than 2,000 entrants took to the island’s coastline yet again. They raised more than £90,000, which was this time split between the Pink Ladies and another beneficiary, Les Bourgs Hospice.

It was an emotional occasion but one that was also filled with love for Anne, hope for the future and lots and lots of laughter, joy and camaraderie.

Sadly, I only knew Anne McMillan for a very short time but her enthusiasm, focus and sense of fun all left a lasting impression, as did her bravery towards the end. We all missed her presence at the latest walk but her contribution to her chosen cause remains. That determination to raise funds for breast cancer patients is work that continues to help many local women today.                                                           

Also significant has been her longer-lasting legacy in helping raise awareness of the disease among many generations of island women.

I am not sure if you can make posthumous awards but, if it were possible, then this lady really deserves to be recognised as an unsung hero.

Anne, we are all very proud of you.

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