Pancreatic Cancer Scotland and the Difference benefit from Advent ball as rally driver lends support

Fiona Brown and Dionne Donovan from Pancreatic Cancer Scotland, fundraiser Leanne Monaghan and rally driver Garry Pearson.
Fiona Brown and Dionne Donovan from Pancreatic Cancer Scotland, fundraiser Leanne Monaghan and rally driver Garry Pearson.

The woman behind a charity ball in Kelso has handed over £57,000 to Pancreatic Cancer Scotland and NHS Borders charity the Difference.

Leanne Monaghan hosted an Advent ball at Springwood Park in December after losing her mother to pancreatic cancer in 2016.

Brian Renwick, Leanne Monaghan and Fiona Brown.

Brian Renwick, Leanne Monaghan and Fiona Brown.

The 30-year-old teacher wanted to do something to help fund research after discovering that survival rates for pancreatic cancer had barely improved in the UK in over four decades, with less than 1% of people diagnosed with the disease surviving more than 10 years.

“We googled the statistics and it was pretty devastating to see,” Leanne said.

But it was the speed at which the disease takes hold that really prompted her to do something. “They might never find a cure for pancreatic cancer due to the nature of it and where the pancreas is in the body, but it would be great if a treatment is found to slow it down,” she said.

“It takes hold so quickly. My mum was diagnosed in the January and she died in the August, two months before my son – her first grandchild – was born.”

Along with a 10-strong committee of helpers, Leanne staged a night to remember on December 8 after tickets for the event sold out within 24 hours.

An auction raised more than £23,000, with a raffle bringing in £4,000, and over £2,000 collected in pennies for Prosecco.

The Difference will receive around £23,000 of the total, with about £33,000 going to pancreatic cancer Scotland.

“It’s such an achievement for a wee place in the Borders,” Leanne said.

“Handing over the money makes it feel more real.

“I can’t thank everyone enough for their time, prizes, donations, pennies, attendance and everything in between. I know how much difference this will make to both of these charities.”

The event has also ensured awareness of pancreatic cancer will continue to be raised, after Borders rally driver Garry Pearson offered to display the charity’s name on his car for the 2019 season.

The purple logo has been emblazoned on the bonnet of Pearson’s top-spec Ford Fiesta R5 ahead of the seven-round Scottish Rally Championships, which begins this weekend in Inverness.

One of Scotland’s leading rally drivers, the 27-year-old, of Duns, wanted to do something to help after attending the ball and learning more about the disease.

“It was really eye-opening to see some of the figures,” he told us. “One of the things that stood out for me was that the survival rates haven’t increased in the last 10 years.

“I was keen to try and help raise awareness, and this was a way I thought I could help.

“I’ll have the logo on the car for the season, and I’ve got leaflets and information that we will take along to hand out at each event.

“There’s seven events across Scotland over the season, so hopefully that will help spread the word.”

Speaking as she presented a cheque for £57,063 to Pancreatic Cancer Scotland and the Difference at Springwood Park on Tuesday, Leanne said: “It’s great that Garry Pearson has put the Pancreatic Cancer Scotland branding on his car after coming to the ball.

“It means even more awareness will be spread as a knock-on effect from the event.”

Fiona Brown, development manager at Pancreatic Cancer Scotland, said: “We are extremely grateful for the huge amount of hard work and effort Leanne, her friends and family put into organising such a fabulous event.

“Leanne has raised an incredible amount of money. It’s overwhelming that it has come from an individual and that it happened in one evening is a testament to the support she had locally. ”

Brian Renwick, fundraising officer at the Difference, added: “Leanne has done a brilliant job. To raise this kind of figure in a place like the Borders really is fantastic.”

Over 50 local businesses supported the NFU Mutual Borders-sponsored ball, attended by 560 people from across the Borders.