WITH the school summer holiday underway, and temperatures set to soar this week, sun protection is high on the health agenda.

And Jacqui Drake knows more than most how vital it is to stay safe in the sun.

Jacqui is terminally ill with stage 4 skin cancer. Diagnosed with a malignant melanoma in 1991, she had an operation to remove a mole on her leg. Nearly two decades later, a secondary cancer was discovered and, later, a lump on her other leg. The cancer spread to her lungs and, in 2015, Jacqui had a lung removed.

Determined to help other cancer patients, Jacqui set up a campaign to raise £1 million for Leeds Cares, the charity supporting the Bexley Wing at Leeds Cancer Centre, where she has treatment.

As well as tirelessly raising funds - a grand ball, a tea party and a sponsored walk are among the events she's held this year - Jacqui visits schools to talk about sun protection.

She recently visited Byron Primary School in Barkerend, working with 200 youngsters from Reception and Years 1 and 2. “This is where I can really make a difference - by educating young people about sun danger and how to protect themselves,” says Jacqui. “I tailor it to different age groups; for this school I focussed on playing out in summer and looking after your skin. I took Factor 50 suncream along, and taught the children to sing The Sun Has Got His Hat On, with the hand actions. One of them paraded in a hat produced by (Bradford-based company) Pink Pineapple, a baseball-style cap with a flap at the back, protecting the neck. The kids loved the session. They took three things away: ‘When in the sun, put a hat on, put suncream on and look after your skin’.

Adds Jacqui: “It’s important to get this across at an early age. Sunburn in childhood can be damaging in later life. If it’s raining, children put waterproofs on. What’s the worst that can happen if it rains? You get wet. Yet when it’s sunny, children are told: ‘It’s a lovely day, go and play out’ and are often sent outside without suncream on. All schools should provide sun hats for children to wear in the playground.”

Jacqui wants to visit more schools to spread the message, and to raise funds for her appeal. “We did a bun sale at Byron School and raised £356. I’d love schools to organise non-uniform days,” she says.

So far her campaign, Jacqui’s Million, has raised over £164,000, most of it funding 10 scalp coolers and caps for the Cancer Centre’s day ward, to prevent hair loss in chemotherapy, and a lead nurse for Systemic Anti-Cancer Therapy.

“This is a position the NHS wouldn’t have been able to fund,” says Jacqui.”People who donate to Jacqui’s Million can see exactly where their money is going.”

Fundraising events this year have included a Greatest Showman themed ball at Aspire, Leeds, attended by 280 people, which raised £27,487; a Mad Hatter’s PositiviTEA Party at Hollins Hall, Baildon, sponsored by First On Scene, raising over £4,000 (next year’s event is May 17 at Hollins Hall) and; and a Positivity Parade and Picnic at Golden Acre Park, Bramley, raising over £1,000. “Everyone wore Jacqui’s Million T-shirts, 62 people took part, it was a great day. I’d like it to become an annual event,” says Jacqui, who has a charity merchandise range of scented candles, beakers and gin glasses.

She has a regular merchandise stall at Leeds Cancer Centre, where patients and their families often open up to her about their own experiences. “People find it hard to talk about cancer. I remember when I was diagnosed, worrying about how I was going to tell my parents,” says Jacqui. “People find it helps to talk to me, as I know what they’re going through. Right from the start, I’ve been determined to stay positive. Someone told me: ‘Your positivity is infectious’ which meant such a lot to me.”

Jacqui has teamed up with Whitaker Firth Solicitors, part of Chadwick Lawrence, in Bradford, and Altogether Financial Solutions in Baildon, which has a referral scheme, with Jacqui’s Million receiving £100 for each case completed.

Bradford Bronte Rotary Club president Jan Lee has chosen Jacqui’s Million as her charity.

“Whitaker Firth are kindly sponsoring my next big event - the Positively Tinsel Christmas Cabaret, as well as an 80s night in Guiseley early next year,” says Jacqui, a dance teacher and choreographer. The Christmas Cabaret will be at King’s Hall, Ilkley, on Sunday, December 15, with performances at 1pm and 5pm, featuring children and adults from the Maillot Rose School Of Dance. “It’s a musical spectacular for all the family. I’m hoping it will raise £8,000,” says Jacqui. “Tickets go on sale at the beginning of September.”

Already planned for next year is an East Meets West-themed ball in Bradford.

Jacqui’s tireless fundraising earned her the Community Award at this year’s Yorkshire Women Volunteer Awards. “It’s a great honour, but it's for my many supporters too,” she says. “The appeal is on a roll, it’s taken over my life, and everyone I meet is so supportive and generous. Here’s to the next £100,000!”

* Email jacqui.dake1@btinternet.com or ring 07768 351683.