“This time last year, we were all looking forward to closing the door on a very turbulent 2020 and hoping that 2021 would be a brighter year for us all.
Unfortunately, 12 months later Covid-19 is still very much in existence and continuing to make its presence felt as social distancing and health restrictions are still part of our everyday lives.
But despite the very real problems caused by the pandemic, people who have been diagnosed with cancer or are living with the disease, also have to deal with a myriad of other issues – and we at the Marie Keating Foundation continue to do our utmost to help and support them and their loved ones, at every step of their cancer journey.
Like most charities, the Foundation has been severely impacted by the ongoing crisis as we have been unable to carry out our annual fundraising activities. But while many charitable organisations receive up to 70% of their funds from the government, unfortunately in our case, we have to raise 98.5% of much-needed funds ourselves.
So, with just 1.5% coming to us in state aid and our fundraising activities largely curtailed due to Covid-19 restrictions, the Foundation has been left in a very vulnerable position and we may be forced to cut back on our much-needed services in 2022.
This is a very worrying situation for us as the demand for our services has grown hugely during the pandemic. We measured a 68% increase in attendance by cancer survivors for our Survive and Thrive Groups and there was a 198% increase in our Positive Living support meetings since March 2020.
But despite this increase in need, our fundraising income has been badly affected and we really need your support in order to continue offering our services around the country to those affected by cancer.
The most vital of these are our nursing and mobile information unit services, made up of eight nurses and three units which, in a normal year, engage with over 30,000 people across the country – in community groups, workplaces, schools and colleges and educating people about how to spot cancer early, cancer risks and the ways in which they can reduce them.
Our specialised public health and oncology nurses are on hand to explain the signs and symptoms of the most common types of cancer and are particularly focused on marginalised or under-served communities. The free-of-charge service also allows members of the public to speak to the nurses on a one-to-one basis at the mobile unit and voice any concerns they have – whether it is about a lump, a suspicious mole or query about medication – and receive trusted guidance.
We know that if cancer is diagnosed at stage 1, the chances of people coming out the far side are so much higher than if diagnosed at a later stage. The Marie Keating Foundation was originally founded after Marie Keating died at 51 because she delayed speaking to her GP about a lump she discovered, so we believe that spreading the message of early detection is so important.
Using everyday language, this is one of the core services provided by our nurses but, including salaries and maintenance of our mobile information units, it costs in excess of €400k a year to run.
We also run a range of cancer awareness campaigns throughout the year to alert the public to the signs and symptoms of the disease in a bid to encourage them to get checked out if they have any concerns.
In addition to this, we have a School’s Cancer awareness programme where our nurses deliver workshops to transition year students at secondary level to educate them about healthy lifestyle choices and help them to understand how they can reduce their risk of cancer. This is usually delivered face-to-face but due to Covid, the programme, like countless others, has been done online.
All of these services, along with advice and support, is provided free-of-charge and with the ongoing uncertainty, we are finding it increasingly difficult to predict whether or not we will be able to continue to provide all of these supports in 2022.
As our income is provided primarily by fundraising, both by ourselves and through corporate partnerships, campaigns, events and appeals, the impact of recurring lockdowns and restrictions has hit The Foundation very hard. We have been unable to run physical events such as our much enjoyed and successful golf tournaments, cycles and runs and even the Christmas lunch we were hoping to hold this year has had to be cancelled due to ever-changing guidelines.
The services we provide cost around €1.7m each year but because we have been unable to host fundraising events, we are now looking at a deficit scenario of between 15% and 20% which means that we are currently looking at having to cut back some of our services.
Choosing what to cut is a very painful decision as we know how much our support is needed, and since the onset of Covid-19, it has proved more crucial than ever.
In Ireland, we are known for being incredibly generous and while every charity has felt the financial fallout from the pandemic, 70% of them will receive government funding, so we are particularly vulnerable as we have to do almost all of our fundraising ourselves.
So, while I know there are so many worthy charities out there, cancer affects every one of us in some way or other, so I am appealing to people to help us in whatever way they can so we can get through this very difficult period and continue to provide the vital services that so many people rely on.
Donations of any size are hugely welcome, and people can even buy the gift of a ticket to our virtual Concert4Cancer charity concert which will be streamed for one night only on December 30th, across the globe for everyone to enjoy. Tickets cost just €10 and there is a fantastic line up of stars who, together, will ensure that the entertainment is second to none. Click here to buy your tickets now.
Every donation or ticket sale will help us to continue the crucial work our nurses and support groups offer. So as 2021 draws to a close, I would like to pay special tribute to the wonderful work done by my colleagues here at the Marie Keating Foundation thank all of you for your ongoing support and I hope that together, we can continue to help and support all those living with cancer or facing a new diagnosis in 2022.
Wishing everyone the best for a brighter year ahead.”