As far as parting gestures go, they don’t come much more generous than that of Mr Dennis Benson OBE, who is to step down from his role as chairman of charity Rosemere Cancer Foundation some time in the New Year.
For Dennis, who celebrates his 85th birthday next month (November), will leave position as soon as a successor is appointed but his “dream”, which he is determined will be his legacy, is for Rosemere Cancer Centre to be at the very forefront of UK cancer treatment before he lets go of the reins!
To help achieve his aim, Dennis has created and launched the “500 Club” – an initiative whereby individuals or groups donate £500 to Rosemere Cancer Foundation’s 20 Years Anniversary Appeal.
The appeal, which launched in March, currently stands at half way towards its £1.5 million target to fund a trio of groundbreaking projects at the cancer centre, which is Lancashire’s and South Cumbria’s regional specialist cancer treatment centre at the Royal Preston Hospital.
This threesome – the acquisition of the most advanced robotic surgical system in the whole of the North of England, which is already installed in the centre and operating on patients, a new, state-of-the-art research facility to enable more patients to have access to the latest medicines and treatments by taking part in clinical trials, and the refurbishment of the centre’s in-patient ward – are essentially birthday gifts to mark the 20th anniversary of the cancer centre’s opening.
Back in 1997, Rosemere Cancer Centre offered only radiotherapy treatment but nowadays, as well as still providing all regional radiotherapy, it has grown to provide many other aspects of highly specialised cancer diagnostics, treatment and services. Dennis said: “The massive anniversary appeal represents an enormous opportunity to put our regional cancer centre at the very forefront of UK cancer treatment.
“Every local family has a huge interest in doing this. There are, of course, many fundraising efforts underway but we are going to need an even greater impetus to see us over the line. That is why I have kickstarted the 500 Club with a cheque for that amount and already, others have followed suit.”
Dennis, who is also the founder and chairman of the Debt Advisory Foundation, a charity which provides independent help to those struggling with debt as well as a money management education programme that is now taught in schools throughout England, continued: “But not everyone can donate this much and the dream is that many others will raise £500 through community initiatives.
“Together, we can achieve this wonderful breakthrough and my plea is that a vast number of coffee mornings, jumble sales, street collections etc prove that together, we can hit back hard at cancer and vastly improve the experience of those affected by it. We can achieve this miracle together!”
A lunch, to be hosted by Dennis, who received his OBE last autumn in the Queen’s 90th Birthday Honours List for his services to charity, is now being planned for all 500 Club members for when the 20 Years Anniversary Appeal closes next year.
Dennis, who is married to Betty and has two children and four grandchildren, has been chairman of Rosemere Cancer Foundation for more than a decade. A Chorley resident, he was founder chairman of Chorley and South Ribble Primary Care Trust, moving to head up the formation of Lancashire Teaching Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust, which manages Rosemere Cancer Centre for the region.
Dennis began his voluntary work 26 years ago, when he retired from his role as managing director of Multipart, formerly Leyland Motors. Dennis is one of a large number of retired Multipart colleagues, who still meet regularly as part of the Multipart Old Boys, which despite its name, is open equally to former female colleagues! He is also a former chairman of Chorley Local Enterprise Agency and Central Lancashire Business Link.
Dennis added: “Our cancer centre has matured wonderfully. It’s there for all of us should we need it. Let’s make it the best in the country.”
Sue Thompson, Rosemere Cancer Foundation’s Chief Officer, said: “Dennis rather surprised us with his announcement of the 20 Years Anniversary Appeal 500 Club but we think it’s a great idea. We know Dennis is keen to front this initiative by himself as his tenure as our chairman comes to end and think it’s a wonderfully generous parting gesture. Dennis is a hard-working, passionate chairman. His boots will be very difficult to fill.”
For further information on the 20 Years Anniversary Appeal, Rosemere Cancer Centre and Rosemere Cancer Foundation and its work, which also extends to another eight hospitals in Lancashire and South Cumbria wherecancer patients are treated, visit www.rosemere.org.uk
Photo: Dennis Benson OBE at the recent Rosemere Cancer Foundation Open Day for supporters