Julie Cook is one of our amazing volunteers. She fundraises tirelessly as part our Lincoln Friends group, and also volunteers at the London Marathon to cheer on our runners. As part of a series of blogs to celebrate this year’s Volunteers’ Week, we caught up with Julie to hear about what volunteering with Anthony Nolan means to her.
Tell me a bit about why you wanted to volunteer for Anthony Nolan.
My granddaughter Annabel was diagnosed with leukaemia in 2011, when she was only four, and we were told her only chance of a cure was a stem cell transplant.
At that point we had heard of Anthony Nolan, but didn’t know any of the details surrounding transplants or how it all worked.
Annabel’s transplant was a success and she is now doing well, so we wanted to do something to give back.
What does the role involve?
At the Lincoln Friends group, we get involved in a wide range of events – from tiny to huge – to raise money for Anthony Nolan. We have organised balls, skydives, collections in supermarkets and even a 24-hour hockey match!
The supermarket collections are a great way to raise awareness of Anthony Nolan’s work and explain to people what we do. I often have people come up to me and say that they have had a transplant themselves.
I have also volunteered at the London Marathon to cheer on the runners, My son Mathew ran in both 2014 and 2016, and it was such a great atmosphere and an amazing thing to be involved in.
How much of your time do you devote to volunteering?
At least a few hours a week, and it can even become quite an obsession sometimes! This year we are organising a summer raffle and we have been emailing businesses and companies to ask for donations. I keep checking my emails to see if anyone has got back!
The time flies, as volunteering for Anthony Nolan never seems like a chore. It’s a pleasure and I enjoy it.
Have you ever found the role challenging?
For me, the most challenging thing is getting across what Anthony Nolan does as an organisation.
People have usually heard of the bigger charities, but when you say ‘Anthony Nolan’, people aren’t always aware of the work that we do. We also do so much as an organisation – from research to supporting patients – it can be difficult to explain this in a few sentences.
It is lovely, though, when people really take an interest and you get a chance to explain in detail what we do. I often do talks for groups like the Women’s Institute, and we have great questions and conversations around the issues of transplant and donation.
How do you benefit from volunteering?
For us it’s a win-win situation and we feel that something good has come out of a very difficult time for us.
When someone lets me know that they have joined the register because of a conversation we had, it gives me a sense of satisfaction. It’s a pleasure to know that I have raised awareness of donation.
What do your friends and family think about your volunteering role?
My whole family is involved in supporting Anthony Nolan! My husband, Alfie, helps out a lot, especially with the supermarket collections, and my daughter and her husband get involved in raising awareness and spreading the word. My son-in law’s parents are also very supportive.
My granddaughter is nine and a half now, and is at the age where she’s a bit embarrassed by it all. Her school are holding a fundraiser and she is pretending to be really embarrassed about it but I know she is actually quite chuffed!
What would you say to someone thinking about volunteering for Anthony Nolan?
I would certainly recommend volunteering for Anthony Nolan. If people can’t join the register, due to their age or any other reason, they can still support Anthony Nolan by spreading the word and raising money.
Volunteering for Anthony Nolan is a unique experience, so if people want something a bit different they should definitely consider it!
How you can help
Has Julie inspired you to volunteer with Anthony Nolan for Volunteers’ Week? You can read more about our full range of volunteering roles here and find out about our current opportunities.