The journey of the Solas Centre began almost four years ago. What started as an ambitious project to provide the best level of cancer services to the people of the South East is now a reality.
Back in 2008, the South East Cancer Foundation outlined the need to expand support services to cancer patients in the region. Each year across Waterford, Wexford, Tipperary, Carlow and Kilkenny 2000 people are diagnosed with cancer. In 2011 alone cancer support was provided to 500 patients from the South East Cancer Foundation’s small house in Sealy Terrace in Earlscourt and subsequently from the new Solas Centre. The Solas Centre anticipates that it will be able to provide support to 1,000 patients in 2012.
2011 proved to be a very busy and productive year for the South Eastern Cancer Foundation.
In January, while the Solas Centre was nearing completion the final touches to make it a state of the art facility were being put in place.
February was all about fit-out. Everything from phone systems and furniture, massage couches and art rooms were fitted in the South East Cancer Foundations soon to be new home. There were green areas to be landscaped and new volunteers to be recruited and trained. February 28th was moving day as the centre relocated to its new home from Sealy Close – a truly momentous and emotional day for all who had given so much of their time and energies.
By early March the new Centre was already experiencing a huge increase in people using their services. The Centre, along with Saint Vincent de Paul Society and the Nicky Fewer Memorial Sailing Scholarship Fund, was a grateful beneficiary of proceeds from Cllr. Mary Roche’s Mayors Ball.
In April, the Centre having opened just six weeks earlier was providing support to more than double the number of clients availing of their services. By the end of the month 60 new clients had visited the Solas Centre.
On May 14th, the Solas Centre officially opened its doors to fundraisers and volunteers. All those who had given so generously of their time and assistance were invited to see and experience the new facilities that were at the disposal of cancer patients and their families.
Iain Munro, SECF Chairman, said “The Solas Centre would not be here if it wasn’t for the generosity and good will of the people of the south east. Since April 2008, we have been campaigning to build and fund state of the art cancer support centre that offers excellent services to cancer patients and their families. Frankly, none of this would have been achieved if it wasn’t for the groundswell of support and kindness from the people of Waterford and the South East.”
June brought some much anticipated sunshine and the Solas Centre’s first newsletter. Distributed to over 3,000 fundraisers and supporters of the Centre, the publication highlighted the experience of three people who were in some way affected by cancer. The stories were recalled by Joe Simpson, who was diagnosed with a rare brain tumour in 2008, Brian Fanning with testicular cancer in 2007 and June Earl, who cared for her father Jimmy McGrath (R.I.P.), who was diagnosed with oesophageal cancer four years ago.
In July, Republic of Ireland and Wolves star Stephen Hunt dropped in to the Solas Centre to launch the South East Run for Life. With sponsorship cards available from the Solas Centre, Sam McCauley stores and AIB branches throughout the region to encourage 1,000 runners, joggers and walkers to take part, Stephen was delighted to announce details of the event. “It is great to be involved with such a good cause that helps so many people through out the South East”, Stephen said. It was also an excuse to have a kick about with Adam O’Neill, a nephew of a Solas Centre patient.
The Hogs were out in force in August for the “Boobs ‘n’ Balls” Bike Trip. Conceived and organised by Waterford Harley Davidson and encompassing Celtic Thunder HOG, Harley Davidson Club of Ireland and the Freewheelers MC, the “Boobs ‘n’ Balls Trip raised a staggering €23,145 for the Solas Centre. A convey of hundreds of motorcycles left Athlone for Waterford and the public support was phenomenal! There was also some much publicised encouragement from Today FM’s Phil Cawley, former Irish rugby hooker Shane Byrne, travel writer and actor Charley Boorman and stunt riding sensation Mattie Griffin.
September was another busy month for fundraising. The fantastic Roanmore GAA Blitz took place during the month followed closely by the Vintage Tractor Rally and the Mooncoin Vintage Club Family Day – three wonderful, fun-filled and entertaining fundraising initiatives!
The sun shone in October and so did the 1,708 runners, joggers and walkers who took part in the South East Run for Life! The increased numbers that participated, the increased money raised for the South East Cancer Foundation and the all new Fun for Life event at the People’s Park in Waterford City on Sunday, October 16th made the fourth Run for Life its best ever.
The amount raised also exceeded all projections and eclipsed previous year’s totals. With over €264,000 for The Solas Centre this amazing event was an even bigger success than ever imagined.
In November things moved up a gear as the Carrick on Suir Motor Rally Sprint got pulses racing! That month also saw the launch of the Autumn Art programme, in association with Waterford Healing Arts Trust, for people affected by cancer. Under the tutelage of artist Philip Cullen, this therapeutic programme continues to provide participants with the opportunity to explore their creative sides! The workshops include colour mixing, magical landscape creation, patterns on canvas and “the mystery bag”, which involves feeling textured objects in a bag and describing what emotions the object evokes.
December sees The Solas Centre continually expanding its counselling and therapy services. Along with new programmes for groups including stress management and yoga, a new support programme for men were also introduced.
For more information about the cancer support services at the Solas Centre call 051 304604, visit www.solascentre.ie or check out the Facebook page Solas Centre – South Eastern Cancer Foundation.