Delight as Maggie’s appeal smashes £1m mark

Fiona Hardie 
celebrates raising �1million in the Buy-A-Brick campaign. Picture; Ian Georgeson
Fiona Hardie celebrates raising �1million in the Buy-A-Brick campaign. Picture; Ian Georgeson
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DONATIONS have been flooding in from all over the city – and now your generosity means Edinburgh Maggie’s is one step closer to getting a long-awaited 
transformation.

It’s been almost six months since the Evening News teamed up with inspirational fundraiser Lisa Stephenson to help raise cash for a £1.2 million 
extension.

Once complete, staff at the centre – nestled just a stone’s throw from the Western General’s oncology unit – will be able to help an additional 5000 people every year.

And thanks to the phenomenal support from our readers, we are delighted to reveal that donations have now smashed through the £1m mark.

But that doesn’t mean it’s time to sit back just yet and now Lisa – the brains behind the Buy A Brick for Maggie’s appeal – is calling for help to get the centre across the finishing line.

Diagnosed with myeloma in 2011, mum-of-two Lisa, 47, knows just how much of a difference the emotional support offered by Maggie’s can make for patients and their families.

“It’s coming up to six years since my diagnosis,” she said. “And there have been some really rocky times during that period.

“My life’s been in the hands of the nurses and doctors so many times and I live very much 
day-to-day.

“As someone who’s in that situation I know how much it means to have Maggie’s but [also] how much the demand for Maggie’s is increasing because I go to the ward – I’m in there twice a week – and I see more and more people.

“I know over the six years how much busier it’s become. But also I’ve got a greater understanding of the things that do help you when you’re on your cancer journey.

“It would be wonderful to be able to provide those services and facilities – so more yoga, more complementary therapies, more counsellors – but all those things cost money.

“By people continuing to buy those bricks they’re not just helping to pay for the structure but they are helping make this about living with cancer in the future and making that contribution for everybody who’s affected by it.”

Built in a former stable block, the Edinburgh centre is now too small to cope with rising demand as around 4300 people are diagnosed in Lothian each year.

The new extension, designed by eminent city architect Richard Murphy, is set to include three new therapy rooms and a much bigger garden.

It will mark an exciting step forward for the centre, which opened in 1996 in memory of garden designer Maggie Keswick Jencks.

Maggie was inspired to develop a new approach to care after being diagnosed with terminal breast cancer in 1993 and left to digest the news alone in a hospital corridor.

Since it opened, the drop-in centre has offered emotional and practical support to more than 420,000 cancer patients and their families.

For Lisa, the difference having a bigger Maggie’s centre will make is simple – and it can’t come a moment too soon.

She said: “It will save lives. It will help people live with this dreadful illness in today’s world.

“We don’t have a cure for cancer – we are making a marvellous impact, but on a day-to-day basis this remains a disease that nobody has conquered, so it’s more important than ever that you have that facility running alongside it that helps people cope emotionally [and] physically with their wellbeing.

“You can talk to any clinician and they’ll tell you it’s as important as the medication.

“Every time I hit a bump Maggie’s was there for me. I can’t imagine having care without it.”

Support has come in from all corners of the Capital since the campaign’s launch, with top crime writer Ian Rankin and leading politicians Kezia Dugdale and Ruth Davidson among those to back the cause.

Lisa wasn’t at all surprised that so many people decided to dig deep and said she couldn’t be more thrilled.

“I was in no doubt that once people were aware of what we were trying to do with the centre and once they crossed the doorway that they’d get it,” she said.

“I defy anybody who’s not walked into Maggie’s to not feel that you want to do something.

“For some people that might be baking a cake, it might be making a jar of jam, it might be giving £25 to buy a brick – not everybody can do that but Maggie’s doesn’t judge, it doesn’t identify anybody by how much money they’ve got in their pocket and I think again that’s hugely important because cancer doesn’t judge.”

Mr Murphy, who has drawn up the extension plans, is returning to Maggie’s after being the brains behind the Edinburgh centre’s original building.

It plays host to a range of different activities – with everything from counselling to beauty therapy on offer – and is meant to feel like a home from home for 
patients.

Mr Murphy previously said it was vital that the new space felt “non-institutional” and kept up the existing Maggie’s atmosphere of making patients and their families feel comfortable from the moment they step through the door.

But we still need to keep on giving, Lisa added, not only to hit the extension target but to ensure funds are in place to help the centre meet its daily running costs, which currently sits at around £2400 a day.

Lisa explained there was “great excitement” about the extension, which she said was giving both staff and patients a real boost.

Urging people to get involved in the final push, she said: “One million pounds is amazing but we need people to still keep buying the bricks [and] making the donations.

“Make that donation and be part of it – don’t miss the opportunity.

“When I talk to people and they say ‘I’ve bought my brick’ it’s great because you say to them when the building opens you’ll be able to look and think ‘I was part of that’.”

‘I want to give a heartfelt thank you to all involved’

For Maggie’s Edinburgh centre head Andrew Anderson, the “incredible” news is yet to sink in.

He said: “It is amazing to hear that we have broken the million-pound mark with the campaign for our extension. Though, given Lisa has been involved and knowing her drive and determination, I shouldn’t be the least bit surprised.

“I would like to give a huge heartfelt thank you to everyone involved, from the readers of the Evening News, all our supporters and, of course, Lisa for turning what was a vision, and then a pressing need for an extension to our centre, into a reality.

“Having the extra space, both in terms of the building and garden, will make a tremendous difference to the level of support Maggie’s in Edinburgh can offer.

“Not only will we be able to accommodate as many as 5000 more visits from people affected by cancer in the Lothian area, we will also be able to extend our programme and ensure those people who already come to us for support will also benefit from an enhanced experience.

“Maggie’s exists to help people live well with cancer, to find joy, solace and empowerment in what can be the hardest of circumstances.

“It fills me with great pride to see how the people of Edinburgh and the Lothians have taken this campaign to heart from, I believe, a desire to ensure Maggie’s is able to reach as many people affected by cancer as possible.”