By ROSALIND GRIFFITHS
THE campaign to raise money for a new centre for CLAN (Cancer Link Aberdeen and North) was launched at the Town Hall by convener Sandy Cluness on Monday.
CLAN provides accommodation and support for cancer patients and families and friends, and is well-known to many in the isles.
The formal launch, complete with jazz trio, drinks and nibbles, marked the start in Shetland of an ambitious campaign already underway on the mainland.
CLAN is having to move from its current premises in Aberdeen and money is needed for the construction of a bigger, purpose-built centre. The CLAN 1,2,3 campaign aims for one charity to take two years to raise £3 million pounds, although the Shetland fundraising effort will last 12 months.
Mr Cluness said he was sure the Shetland tradition of digging deep – as had been seen with the CT scanner – would again be evident in support of a cause which could benefit everyone.
Chairwoman of the fundraising committee Elaine Jamieson said the committee was conscious that a high-profile campaign could potentially deflect money from other charities so a “robust and dynamic approach” for a limited time was being adopted. She said folk had proved themselves extremely generous in the past, and was confident a significant amount could be raised in 12 months. Orkney and the north east of Scotland, the areas benefiting from CLAN’s services, were also fundraising, she said.
People have been raring to go, according to fundraising committee member Cecil Smith, who said that since an article about the need for a new home for CLAN appeared in this paper several weeks ago “the phone has never stopped ringing with people wanting to know what they can do to help”.
He said there would be a raffle in September with only three (but very expensive) prizes, the first one being a car donated by Jim’s Garage. There would then be a concert and various functions throughout the year, culminating in a grand finale dance in June.
Mr Smith said: “There are very few folk whose lives have not been affected by cancer. We are promoting the appeal and helping folk with their own fundraising. We’re looking forward to an exciting 12 months.”
One of the ways money will be raised is through a charity shop in the Toll Clock Shopping Centre (opposite Jool), which George Sutherland at Bolt’s has allowed the fundraisers to use free of charge. The shop, selling good quality second hand clothes and bric a brac, was opened on Tuesday and is being run by Rena MacKay.
Mrs MacKay said prior to opening that she was looking forward to getting the shop going. “I love doing it but my house is taken over by clothes.” The shop is open from 11am to 5pm Monday to Saturday.
A three-legged race and Sunday teas in Aith later in the month are just some of the events already organised.
Money from islanders has already been pouring in, however. Recently Alan Harcus from Tingwall and his brother Eoin from Orkney raised nearly £10,000 for CLAN by playing golf on four courses – two in Shetland and two in Orkney – in one day. They started in Whalsay at 4.30am in “atrocious conditions” and recalled: “We hit a total of 644 shots and only lost two balls, we had covered over 21000 yards and it had taken 18 hours. Some people asked us at the end if this had ever been done before, but we said nobody is that stupid.
“Throughout the day the generosity of the Shetland and Orkney people was unbelievable. We had individuals coming up to us on the ferry from Whalsay, on the golf courses, at the airports and later in the club houses handing us envelopes with money and messages of support.”
CLAN in Aberdeen offers a home from home for cancer patients when they have to travel to the city for treatment, and can accommodate family and friends as well. The complex, a converted church, comprises CLAN House, where cancer counselling and therapy take place, and CLAN Haven, which offers accommodation. There is a kitchen where residents can cook and washing machines for their laundry, but above all it offers a welcoming family atmosphere where the housekeepers are always ready with support and advice.
The new CLAN will be one building which will have 25 accommodation rooms, including two family rooms, as well as dedicated treatment areas, a children’s area, a dining room, lounge and a drop-in centre which will also have a family area. The centre will offer enhanced services, such as visiting speakers.
Fundraising committee member George Henderson said there was “tremendous use” made of the CLAN complex by Shetlanders, with the average stay being 30 nights. So far this year Shetlanders had spent nearly 900 nights there, he said.
Fellow committee member Willie Shannon has had experience of CLAN, and he and his wife Katherine are delighted the new complex will have family accommodation.
The Shannon family spent four weeks in Aberdeen when Mrs Shannon had radio therapy following a mastectomy and chemotherapy. The family wanted to be together but taking five children aged between two and nine with them was no easy task.
They stayed at CLAN for one week and ended up at a CLAN caravan in Banchory. Mrs Shannon said: “Having been through all that [treatment] we didn’t want to be apart. CLAN is wonderful for individuals and adults and has tremendous opportunity for alternative therapy, but they weren’t geared up for five young children. We were trying to keep the kids quiet because there were some very ill people there, although some people appreciated the kids lightening things up.”
Several weeks in a caravan was “challenging”, she said, although she and her husband tried to make it into a “big adventure”.
Mrs Shannon welcomed the prospect of a new CLAN and said: “We are absolutely delighted about the new facility. It will give more of an option for families to stay together.”
Many other islanders have stayed at CLAN, and all have been delighted not to have had the isolation and expense of staying in a hotel or B&B.
For Evelyn Pottinger from Lerwick, CLAN was a “godsend”. Mrs Pottinger stayed there several times in the last year during her late husband’s illness, and said: “Everybody there is in the same position. You are not alone in a terrible situation, if you were sitting in a hotel you would be isolated.
“There were a lot of Shetlanders there and we made friendships at a time when it was difficult being away from the family.
“What a boon it was after sitting in intensive care all night to go back to CLAN, you felt like you were going home.
“I wasn’t a depressing place – everybody is that cheery. Everybody’s got the same fear as you and they’re coping with it.”
Mrs Pottinger described the centre as being “tranquil” and “intimate”, and the family recently sent a cheque for £1,052 to CLAN, the money being collected at her husband’s funeral.
The empathy of the staff was something that struck Brenda Scollay from Tingwall when she spent five weeks at CLAN while having treatment. She said: “They seem to have an innate sense of what’s appropriate. They greet with you and they party with you.”
Mrs Scollay said described CLAN as a “wonderful place”, where you could “bake bannocks or have a party and a bottle of wine” as the mood took you. “You are free to use it like your own home. There is a communal sitting room but it is OK to be alone in your room if you want to. I can’t speak highly enough of it. I’m so anxious they get money for the new place.”