Cure Cancer @ UCL is a London-based charity that funds vital, state-of-the-art medical equipment for the UCL Cancer Institute’s non-Hodgkin lymphoma research team. It was established by Sandra Hamilton, who has herself been battling the rare blood cancer since 2006.

Over the years, Cure Cancer @ UCL has raised more than £1m to help researchers learn more about this disease and potential treatments for it. The charity’s goal each year is to raise enough money to clear the University College London researchers’ shopping list of specialist machinery, but the coronavirus outbreak has unsurprisingly made 2020 extremely difficult. 

“The biggest challenge we have with the pandemic is definitely running events,” says Sandra. “Even in ‘normal’ times, it’s difficult for smaller charities like ours to raise funds, as we’re up against the bigger names who already have huge followings. But events are our best way of bringing in money: we offer people something for coming, and in turn they support our cause, so we all win.”

The events Sandra’s referring to usually take place throughout the year – everything from family dog walks and half-marathons to quizzes and clairvoyant evenings. “These are all big gatherings, so naturally they’ve been cancelled,” she says. “As a result, we’re now turning to virtual events, which is tough because it’s a completely new field for us. There are plenty of professionals out there with the skills to help with the marketing side of that, but as a charity we’re not in the best position to pay. It’s difficult.”

Even in ‘normal’ times, it’s difficult for smaller charities like ours to raise funds. But events are our best way of bringing in money

Sandra Hamilton, founder
Cure Cancer @ UCL

At a time when many vulnerable people receiving treatment for cancer-related diseases – Sandra herself included – are shielding in their homes, the charity has worked hard to persevere. It recently held a virtual exercise challenge in place of a family event that had been planned for May, asking supporters to complete an hour of guideline-friendly exercise – with creativity encouraged – before making a donation to the charity and nominating others to do the same. 

Sandra admits that for her charity, there’s no real substitute for real-life, in-person events, but she says that organising something online did force her to think about what might be possible – and maybe even imperative – in the future. “We are currently looking at ideas for more virtual events,” she says. “We’re talking with people at the moment about how we can get the vital promotion and exposure we’ll need to properly pull it off, so watch this space.”

Even without its full fundraising power, Cure Cancer @ UCL is also managing to contribute directly to the fight against coronavirus, as Sandra explains: “Specialist equipment we purchased for the cancer researchers at UCL, before all this happened, is currently being used to help a team in Milton Keynes to identify coronavirus cases. That’s something we’re really proud of.”

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