Havering, Redbridge and Barking & Dagenham cancer charity Mark McCarthy’s Magic Moments appeals for help bringing joy to the sick

A small cancer charity with a big heart is appealing for help making a difference in and around Havering.

Terminally ill cancer sufferers are often discharged from hospital with no support, says Lin Mathieson, who volunteers with Mark McCarthy’s Magic Moments. This places a burden on their families, and can leave them feeling abandoned and helpless.

“You wouldn’t believe in this day and age the number of people that are thrown out of hospital with no social support,” said Lin, 59. “We get referrals from community services saying people have got no money for food.”

The Mark McCarthy charity, named after a young leukaemia sufferer who died 12 years ago, gives cancer patients financial and emotional help as well as a chance to have fun. It organises two big events each year – a boat trip down the River Thames and a Christmas pantomime and meal – plus smaller days out.

The charity, staffed entirely by volunteers, also provides gifts and hampers at Christmas, which can be a particularly tough time for families hit by cancer.

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“We make up around 80 hampers for those who are really struggling,” said Lin. “If the main wage earner has cancer, very often they have to go on benefits, which can be very tight.

“We also buy toys for their children, as for many patients it may be their last Christmas as a family together.”

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Like many of the charity’s volunteers, Lin has some personal experience of the illness – her sister Hazel died of ovarian cancer at the age of 54.

Lin says this first-hand knowledge of cancer helps her support others. “We’ve all gone through losing somebody,” she explained. “We feel the pain, so patients feel comfortable talking to us about their situation.”

Volunteer Allen Potter lost both parents and his twin brother to the illness, and was himself diagnosed with throat cancer, all within the space of a few years.

“Mark McCarthy’s were the only people that were there,” he said. “What they do is absolutely fantastic.

“It was very hard to handle, but I could talk to people who were going through similar things. I find it hard to put into words how grateful I feel.”

Retired fireman Allen, 59, said the charity desperately needed younger volunteers. “Most of us on the committee now are 50 plus,” he explained. “Young blood is essential for the charity to carry on.”

As a small, local organisation independent of the hospitals whose patients it cares for, Mark McCarthy’s lacks the financial clout of bigger charities – meaning its eight volunteers are constantly stretched. “It’s very hard work,” said Lin. “We’re asking for more volunteers to help as and when required.”

The charity is holding a Christmas dance on November 14 at Top Meadow golf club, South Ockenden, to raise much needed funds. Tickets will go on sale shortly, priced �37.50, from www.markmccarthysmagicmoments.webs.com or on 07821 840063.

Companies who feel they can donate a hamper at Christmas are also asked to get in touch. A committee member will collect the hamper in person. Please call the number above for more information about what is needed.

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