When Joyce Wright’s dad, George Ballantyne, died from oesophageal cancer in 1987, she was determined to make a difference in his memory, by organising a sponsored walk around her hometown.
She rounded up a few of her friends, and held the first 20-mile event from Dryhope to Selkirk, via Traquair and the Three Brethren, the next year.
And now, more than 30 years later, it’s an annual event treasured by many who look forward to taking parto, and Joyce has helped raise £175,559 over that time for Cancer Research UK ... a feat that has earned her an Honorary Fellow award from the charity.
Joyce picked up the award at a ceremony at the Merchant Taylors’ Hall in London on June 28, hosted by Cancer Research UK’s chairman, Sir Leszek Borysiewicz.
She told us: “My dad always loved hillwalking and after he died I really wanted to do something positive to help other people going through cancer.
“I have four sisters and they’ve all helped over the years to make the annual walk a success.
“I’m also lucky to live in a community of individuals who have thrown themselves behind the walk. It’s on the same weekend every year and people know to keep that weekend free.
“Every year I’m fortunate to hear the stories of people who are taking part, inspired by a loved one who has been through cancer.
“I’m extremely honoured to be nominated for this award. I feel proud that the funds we raise help with research and it is good to see that this is producing results.
“Many more people are now surviving cancer than they did 30 years ago. Dad was so young when he died ... I hope he would be proud of his legacy.”
The charity’s annual Flame of Hope Awards acknowledge remarkable efforts in fundraising and volunteering made by people from all walks of life.
The first fundraising walk included just 12 participants and it has steadily grown, and now, around 80 participants take part each year.
And, thanks to Joyce’s energy, the event has become a true community effort with Borders Buses providing free transport to the start of the walk, Tweed Valley mountain rescue team providing safety assistance, and volunteers from Selkirk Rotary Club acting as marshals.
Joyce has also been a key member of the fundraising committee in Selkirk for 40 years, a committee which has raised almost £500,000 for Cancer Research UK.
Michelle Mitchell, Cancer Research UK’s chief executive, said: “The Flame of Hope awards give us the opportunity to celebrate and say thank you to our enormously generous volunteers and supporters for the fantastic work that they do.”