It has been almost 40 years since Marjorie Hodgson and her friends spent a wet Saturday dragging a pram round Bingley wearing black leotards and French knickers in the name of cancer research.
Back then, the ‘mini-skirted committee’ had been raising money for what was then known as the Yorkshire Cancer Research Campaign for seven years, and the pram race was just one event in a huge list of fundraising activities they had either organised or taken part in.
Marjorie’s enthusiasm for the cause has never waned and, as the fundraising committee celebrates 45 years of raising cash for the Harrogate-based charity, the 78-year-old said she is as dedicated as ever.
“My milkman in 1968 was a lady called Tina Emmett,” she explained. “She’d originally come from Keighley, where a committee for the Yorkshire Cancer Research Campaign had already been set up. She said: ‘You haven’t got a cancer research committee in Bingley, shall we start one?’ “We were all quite young, in our early 30s. In our first year we produced six children and the charity’s chief executive at the time, Mr Bellingham, referred to us as his ‘mini-skirted committee’.
“First there were two of us, then we became four and we just kept growing until we had 14 members.”
Marjorie remembers paying three and six pence for coffee at their first committee meeting and has fond memories of the strong support they received from the community.
One of their most successful events in the early days was a barbecue held at the home of former international show jumper Harvey Smith, which raised £2,778.
Other events held over the years include fashion shows, a ‘Spring Fling’ dance, cocktail parties, carol singing, a sponsored ‘slim-in’, flower festivals, a rail trip to London, auctions, a ‘grand grocery grab’ competition, wine tasting and a 17th century evening.
At their most recent annual luncheon, Marjorie and other members of the committee raised £2,200.
Marjorie said: “I spent the Monday before cooking two hams, while another member made 16 lemon pavlovas and another cooked 12 salmons.
“We’re always exhausted by the time it’s over and we ask, ‘why do we do this? We’re not doing this anymore!’ But of course we do.”
Today, as members have either passed away or moved on, the committee is smaller and it only holds two or three functions a year, but it still manages to raise in the region of £10,000 for Yorkshire Cancer Research every tear.
It has donated a total of £268,377.16 since it was formed and, if legacies gifted to the charity from people living in the area are also included, the figure becomes £533,344.87.
“The people of Bingley have always been fantastic and still are,” Marjorie said.
“We’ve always been able to call on people who will help out.
“Lots of things we couldn’t do without our husbands, who have carted tables and chairs around and chatted up the local supermarket to give us good deals.
“We’ve also been very fortunate to get a lot of money for donations in lieu of flowers from the local funeral directors.
“We do have a lot fun and make a few quid at the same time. If you can make it fun it doesn’t become an onerous task.”
Yorkshire Cancer Research’s 40 committees across the county raise in the region of £500,000 every year, making a difference to the number of vital research projects that are funded.
Marjorie said: “I do sometimes worry that we are getting older and we haven’t got anybody to continue.
“When we first formed the committee, young mums didn’t work and we had a lot of time on our hands.
“We would love younger people to join us because they would enjoy it, but these days everybody has to work harder and longer and every bit of time at home is very precious. All the committees need fresh, young people to think of new fundraising ideas.
“I think of us as being a bit ‘stick-in-the-mud’. We can’t always think of different things to do, but as long as we can keep going we will do.”
Sally Crerar, head of community fundraising at Yorkshire Cancer Research, praised the group for its superb efforts over the last four decades.
She said: “The achievements of Marjorie and the members of the Bingley committee over the last 45 years are tremendous. We are enormously grateful for the dedication and commitment they have shown to the charity.
“Our committees across Yorkshire are the backbone of our organisation. Without them we simply could not fund the research we carry out for the benefit of local cancer patients.”
Anyone interested in joining or setting up a fundraising committee for Yorkshire Cancer Research should contact Sally on (01423) 877236 or email email@example.com.
For more information on the charity, visit www.ycr.org.uk.