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We often refer to Children’s Cancer North as a family, and for those of us that work or volunteer for the charity – and the hundreds of supporters just like you that make our work possible through fundraising, donations and awareness raising – that’s exactly what we are. We look after each other. We support each other. And we do that because we all share the same ambition: to make life better for children with cancer.

This week we lost an important member of our family – Children’s Cancer North trustee, Ian Birtwistle. Many of you will be aware of Ian and his cancer journey from the article we shared last week. Ian lived with bowel cancer for five years before he sadly died on Monday (12 February) aged 40.

Ian is very special to us. For the past 13 years he has been a trustee of Children’s Cancer North, and for 12 years he has cheered on the runners at the Children’s Cancer Run as Start Manager. His relationship with the charity is a deeply personal one.

Ian was just six months old when he was first diagnosed with cancer, and he was aged 10 when his cancer returned. As a childhood cancer survivor himself, Ian knew first hand how difficult the journey is for children and their families. That’s why he chose to dedicate his life to making life better for children with cancer.

Earlier this year Ian’s fellow trustee, Professor Sir Alan Craft, presented him with an award named in his honour – the Sir Alan Craft Outstanding Achievement Award – in recognition of Ian’s years of fundraising, awareness raising and dedication to Children’s Cancer North. It was a touching moment as Alan was one of the doctors that treated Ian as a child.

For those that don’t know, Ian – or Birty as he is known to his friends – was an avid rugby player, and for many years was a member of Northern FC in Gosforth. His friends at the club have organised a special fundraiser this coming Saturday (17 February) in his honour, with all programme sales (£3) and on-the-day donations going to Ian’s wife and family and, at Ian’s wish, Children’s Cancer North. We are incredibly grateful to Ian and his family for this gesture.

Anyone is welcome to attend the match against Morpeth RFC. The day will begin at 12noon, with a pre-match lunch served at 1pm. You can find more information here.

We will miss Ian terribly at Children’s Cancer North. His contribution to advancements in childhood cancer treatment, and his support for the charity and the patients we care for will be remembered forever – as will his infectious laughter, warm smile, and caring nature. Working with Ian’s family, we plan to honour his work with Children’s Cancer North and celebrate his legacy. More details will be shared later this year, along with some of the many stories, words of support, and memories we have received this week.

“I’ve known Ian for many years through our joint experiences of surviving childhood cancer, friendship, and his role as a trustee. His passing leaves a huge hole in our whole Children’s Cancer North family.

“Ian was passionate about the cause, and never looked for recognition or reward – he was always just happy to help and get things done for the benefit of others.

“His enthusiasm and positivity for life spread throughout everyone whose lives he touched, which is why his loss is felt so deeply amongst so many.”

Chris Peacock, Chair of Trustees at Children’s Cancer North


In May this year an event very close to Ian’s heart is taking place, our annual Children’s Cancer Run. For those of you planning to join us this year, we’d like to ask you to take a moment to remember Ian at the start line. This was very much his space – somewhere filled with joy, happiness and love. It would mean the world to us for people to remember him on the day.

You’re in our hearts forever Ian x

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