Swindon Link writes about people we call a Swindon Treasure, those with inspirational stories who do so much for the town, or should be remembered as outstanding individuals.
Juliet Platt recalls a woman who inspired many others to support Breakthrough Breast Cancer, the late Shirley Garman, right.
Shirley passed away in 2009, having finally lost her own fight with breast cancer. She had been a life-long campaigner and set up the Wiltshire Breakthrough group in 1995 with a target of raising £1 million.
Her friend and fellow fundraiser Eunice Salmon said: “Shirley was a very get-on-with-it person. She never let things get the better of her or bring her down. She even turned up to a fundraising breakfast on the very day of one of her own operations to beat the disease, saying it would take her mind off it.”
The Wiltshire Breakthrough group was unusual in that Shirley also offered emotional and practical support to other sufferers. Commenting on the personal cost Eunice said: “It must have been emotionally draining but Shirley didn’t really care about herself as long as she was helping other people.”
Shirley’s earlier campaigning experience was triggered by her son being hospitalised with an ear problem in 1981, at a time when mothers were unable to stay with their children in hospital.
She and another mother were instrumental in setting up the Swindon branch of the National Association for the Welfare of Children in Hospital, giving parents support when their children were unwell.
Later Shirley worked for Age Concern and volunteered in a Samaritans charity shop. She also helped to run a youth club for 11 to 18 year olds.
Shirley was a lead member of Campaign & Advocacy Network and was invited to The White House in Washington to meet Hilary Clinton who was very involved in breast cancer and health issues in the USA at the time. Reflecting on this honour Shirley’s husband Ralph said: “This was most definitely a highlight for Shirley.”
March is the month of the Mad March Hare, a key event in the fund-raising calendar of Breakthrough Breast Cancer Wiltshire which was founded by Shirley.
In 2007 Shirley jointly set up the Mad March Hare run and walk in memory of cancer sufferer Irene Hare. So far it has raised over £52,000 towards Shirley’s £1 million target for Breakthrough Wiltshire.
The following year she was named Breakthrough Breast Cancer’s Inspirational Woman of the Year , but was unable to collect the award herself as she was too unwell.
Eunice, travelled to Tanzania in February to climb Mount Kilimanjaro. She said: “I’m still going for Shirley’s million, and to do what we can to improve breast cancer treatment at the Great Western Hospital. The biopsy chair needs replacing and the campaign continues to bring radiotherapy facilities to Swindon so that cancer patients can be spared the gruelling trek backwards and forwards to Oxford.”
Shirley is without doubt one of Swindon’s treasures, and, as Eunice put it so eloquently: “Shirley’s inspiration, legacy and smile will live on forever.”
Pictured: In 2008 Mad March Hare organisers had to delay the event for a month after heavy rain. Shirley Garman is pictured on the right and her friend Eunice Salmon on the left.
This year’s Mad March Hare in aid of Breakthrough Breast Cancer takes place on Sunday 24 March
Starting and finishing at Lydiard Park Academy, run or walk, push a buggy or follow the dog around a 5k or 10k course around West Swindon and Lydiard Park.
It’s open to all ages and abilities; fancy dress is optional. New for 2013 is a children’s Easter egg trail for a £1 entry fee.
Register to take part at www.madmarchhare.org.uk or call 0845 6808064 for a postal entry.
Menzies Hotel, Fleming Way, Swindon
Thursday 21st March 2013 Doors Open 7:15pm
Advanced Tickets £5. on the Door £6
Supporting Swindon Phoenix Rotary Club In Aid of the Mammography Biopsy Chair Project for the Breast Unit, Great Western Hospital, Swindon. See details in the poster
For tickets please contact Lynn Parfrey on 07530 948350 or click the poster to email her.