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Newport man reaches million-pound milestone for charity

Pictured: Michael with wife Bridget

A NEWPORT man has reached a million-pound milestone after pledging to raise a lifesaving sum for a charity close to his heart, Cancer Research UK.

In 1981 as Michael and Bridget Locke drove their daughter, who was of school age, home to Wales from her final chemotherapy session in London, they decided they wanted to play their part in making a difference to those touched by cancer.

Inspired by their daughter, who said: “I’m one of the lucky ones. I’d like to give something back” Bridget set about founding the Newport and District Friends, a new fundraising committee. Michael became Secretary of the group, and still is secretary of the ‘The Newport Group of Friends of Cancer Research UK.’

What started modestly with collection buckets and coffee mornings swiftly turned into anything from making and selling more than 2000 jars of three fruit marmalade to an annual golf event which in more than 30 years has raised over £250,000 towards the total.

A specific target was not set but over the years they found themselves passing a quarter, half and three quarter of a million pounds. In 2019 they predicted that if they could maintain the fundraising momentum that they would reach £1m by Michael’s 90th birthday.

Unfortunately, the COVID-19 pandemic put events on hold. However, after the lockdown ended, there was a renewed fundraising push and on 7 July just after Michael’s 91st birthday the annual golf day was revived. A total of 64 teams took part in the event and £20,483 was raised including a generous donation from an anonymous donor.

Michael said: “As a family we are thankful to every single person involved in helping us reach our goal, without the community and our family and friends it would have been impossible.  What has also touched us is the kindness shown by passers-by, who’ve supported the cause without knowing us personally. It has been a mammoth effort by all, and we hope that those involved also feel proud of this milestone achievement.

“We did sponsored walks, various collections, marathon runners and even two young men cycled around the world for us. You name it, we did it”.

Michael and Bridget are now looking forward to spending time with their three daughters and six grandsons, knowing that the money raised will fund research into the prevention, diagnosis, and treatment of cancer, helping to ensure more people in Wales and across the UK survive.

Every year, around 19,300 people are diagnosed with cancer in Wales*. Thanks to the generosity of its supporters, Cancer Research UK spends more than £4million a year on some of the UK’s leading scientific and clinical research- helping more people survive the disease.

Michelle Mitchell, Cancer Research UK’s chief executive, said: “We’re incredibly grateful to Michael and his family for everything they have done over the decades to help support life-saving research.

“The commitment and dedication they have shown is inspiring, and to reach the £1m mark is a truly staggering achievement.

“One in two of us will get cancer in our lifetime** and we can all play a part to help beat it. Cancer Research UK’s pioneering work into the prevention, diagnosis and treatment of cancer has helped save lives but this has only been possible thanks to the commitment of our supporters and volunteers, without whom we would be unable to fund outstanding scientists, doctors, and nurses.”

In 2007 Michael was awarded an MBE by the Queen for his contribution to Cancer Research UK.

Michael said: “In my eyes, I always said that the M was for me, Mike, the B was for Bridget my wife who is chair and founder of the group, and the E is for everybody else who has helped. It makes you feel you’ve done something towards the well-being of the world. It has given me a job without being paid for it which I’ve enjoyed because I think I’m doing something useful with my 30-year retirement. Sooner or later, we will beat cancer. We’re just helping to make it sooner rather than later.”