John Lunney has paid tribute to the support of those in the district as he and his wife Violet step down from their role with Banbridge Action Cancer Group after 31 years of service.
At a special farewell, Action Cancer Events and Group Support Officer Leigh Chamberlain and Head of Fundraising Douglas King made presentations to John and Violet, and also to Mairead Woods who is stepping down as chair after five years of service.
John and Violet became involved with the group after Violet was diagnosed with breast cancer, 32 years ago.
“It was a devastating blow to us,” John said. “Back then the word cancer meant things would not end well and it’s still the same to this day.”
“Violet’s consultant, Mr Stirling, found her a hospital bed by the next morning.
“I thank God for his decision for it meant early detection and a positive outcome.”
“We joined the group because we wanted to give something back and be there for other people who had the same problem as Violet.
“The founder members of the group at that time were Hilda Hewitt, her daughter Audrey Groves who was vice chair and treasurer Mrs Irene Addis. We held small events then such as clothes sales.”
With John as vice chair the second year and chair the following year, the group began to gather momentum with 30 people all keen to help.
They organised the Christmas raffle in shops in the town and the annual duck race.
“The Muscular Dystrophy group helped us to organise the duck race and they were marvellous. This was one of our biggest events.”
After a short break, the group was restarted by Patricia Cairns and Iris Hannah and quickly became strong again.
“Ann Hulme has also been a stalwart of both the present and previous group along with secretary Janice Shaw, treasurer Mary McClain, and members Barbara McMullan, Laura Close and Betty Jones who has been our vice chair,” said John.
“One of our most successful events was the Paint the Town Pink event - we raised £35,000.
“We very much appreciate the friends we have made over the years and we have found out how generous the people of Banbridge are. We would just appeal for new members as the group gets stronger.”
Paying tribute, a group member said: “We shall miss them greatly but they will always remain close friends of the group and indeed have offered their help when needed.
“Mairead Woods is also taking some time off from the group but hopes to return.”