I suppose most people in England have heard of clicsargent a charity that supports children and young people with cancer. But I wonder how many people know the story of the remarkable man behind its foundation.
Robert Woodward was born in 1934 close to where I live in Bristol and was a former pupil of the junior school, Dr Bells which my older children attended. He left school at 14 and became a builder. He must have shown an early flair for business as he was able to set up a very successful property development company with his brother.
However his life changed when his son also called Robert was diagnosed with neuroblastoma in 1974 at the age of eight. At that time the outlook was bleak. Most children who got cancer died. Robert was treated at Frenchay hospital near Bristol and Bob and his wife Judy spent a lot of time talking with other parents at the hospital. They lived close by but they realised that other parents were sleeping on the hospital floor to be near their children. They also learnt at first hand the practical, financial and emotional problems parents faced coping with a child with cancer. Sadly Robert died at the age of 11.
The origins of Clicsargent
Despite their own difficulties they decided to help. Bob used his own money to buy and furnish a house the parents of the sick children could use. Clic cottage was built as a home from home in the grounds of the hospital. He also founded a charity to raise funds to help with the costs of caring for children with cancer: Clic which is short for cancer and leukaemia in childhood.
From its small beginnings in Frenchay it has grown to be one of the largest children’s cancer charities in the country. As well as ten clic cottages where parents can stay while their children are being treated for cancer, it also funds specialist nurses and gives financial grants to families in difficulties. It now also supports teenagers and young people with cancer.
In case you are wondering the Sargent part of the name comes from a merger with a similar charity founded by the conductor Sir Malcolm Sargent.
The charity still continues its mission to be there for the 12 children in the UK who are diagnosed with cancer each day. Thankfully nowadays the outlook is much brighter eight out of ten children and young people diagnosed with cancer survive. Find out more here Clicsargent
The Woodward family suffered further tragedy when a younger son who had Downs syndrome died at the age of 4. This led Bob to become CEO of a second charity the starfish trust, which funds care and support for children suffering from other life limiting illnesses and disabilities. The starfish trust has been pivotal in providing six specialist hydrotherapy pools, a meningitis research laboratory and a technology centre for disabled students.
Bob received an OBE from the Queen in 2014 and even had a Great Western railway engine named after him. In 2012 he was chosen to carry the Olympic torch through Frenchay.
Sadly Bob lost his own fight against cancer last week but I was able to take his photo when he visited our shop just before Christmas to buy his Christmas cards.
The clic Fishponds shop
I have been volunteering a couple of mornings a week for about 10 years in our local CLIC shop. Bob decided to set up shops to raise funds and our shop in Fishponds was number one. We are naturally proud of this. The charity has raised over one hundred million to support children and young people with cancer and our shop has raised over a million pounds in the thirty years it has been open.
It is always good to hear from people who have been helped by the charity. One of our former volunteers is a young woman who has survived childhood leukaemia. She was given a computer by the charity. This enabled her to continue her school work at home and eventually obtain a place at university. A couple of years ago our shop was badly damaged in an arson attack and Melissa was chosen to cut the tape to reopen the shop.