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We first heard about Vicki and James Woodall a few months ago and we are so honoured to have them as our Westlab Heroes this month. After their youngest son was diagnosed with a rare cancer in 2017, Vicki and James started a fundraising initiative called the 'George and the Giant Pledge' which was their pledge to raise crucial funds for childhood cancer research in partnership with The Royal Marsden Cancer Charity. The Giant Pledge is a fundraising initiative of The Royal Marsden Cancer Charity which specifically ring-fences the money raised for paediatric cancer support and research projects that they have chosen. To date they have raised nearly £1.4 million, but need to raise more due to the very poor amount of funding that children's cancer research receives. They have funded a number of projects, these include play therapists, (psychologists working with children with brain tumours), a sarcoma fellow, (researchers into a genomics projects into three specific areas of children’s cancer through to upgrading and refurbishing isolation rooms in a local hospital).
What inspires you?
Both my sons for the way that they have dealt with the massive lifestyle change that a cancer diagnosis brings to the family. George, with the way he has dealt with his cancer diagnosis, the treatment and after effects of surgery. Alex, his older brother, who has been there every step of the way. I'm also inspired by all the children that we've met along the way fighting cancer and all the amazing doctors and nurses who are the real superheroes! Ever since we've entered the world of childhood cancer we've felt the need to turn this negative into a positive and try and raise money so that other children and families hopefully don't have to suffer in the same way as we did.
What kind of events/fundraising do you do?
Wow - there's so many!! We've inspired a real community to fundraise for the Giant Pledge via our daily blog on Facebook! From this we've held events from Apres Ski parties, Barn Dances and 80/90's night; we've run marathons, had people sky-dive, held golf days and sold t-shirts and capes to raise funds. Future events include a Plane Pull, ultra-marathon and a dance show.
What's the most rewarding aspect of what you do?
In our darkest days of George's treatment it was amazing to see the money increasing and knowing that even on days like that the money would go to improving things for kids in the future.
Tell us about your greatest achievement so far.
I think passing the one million pound barrier was the greatest achievement of the Giant Pledge. We passed this mark shortly after my wife had finished the London Marathon and it was great that an event that we'd both pushed ourselves in was the one the tipped the money past the one million pound bar!
What do you hope to achieve through your work?
We would love to help fund projects that help find newer and kinder treatments for children with cancer both now and in the future!
If you could share one piece of advice what would it be?
Never give up - even on our darkest days we could always find something good no matter how small it was.
Looking to the future, James hopes to have a number of settled big events each year and also get more corporate sponsorship/involvement in the Giant Pledge so more children can have access to better care.
You can find more about the Giant Pledge at www.giantpledge.com; on Facebook @georgeandthegiantpledge; on Instagram @giantpledge, and Twitter @giantpledge.