Joanna Sullivan, Head of Mass Participation at Teenage Cancer Trust, on how working at the charity is a family affair
Can you explain what Teenage Cancer Trust does in seven words?
Ensure young people don’t face cancer alone
And what you do in three…
Create opportunities to give. Actually that’s four words, isn’t it?
What’s your favourite thing about working at Teenage Cancer Trust?
I think it’s the amazing team of people that we work with. Everyone is genuinely passionate about making sure that young people have access to the best possible care and support throughout their cancer experience. When I first joined people talked about Teenage Cancer Trust as being a family and I was like “um, OK”, but you really do feel part of one when you work here.
What’s the biggest success you’d had at Teenage Cancer Trust?
In the area of fundraising I work in, I think the biggest recent success was being chosen as the official charity for the Virgin Money London Marathon 2018. We put our heart and soul into pitching for it, and now we’re trying to maximise the opportunities that we get through the partnership. We’re hoping to raise over £1.5 million, which is going to have a huge impact on the services we can provide to young people with cancer, and it also gives us a platform to talk about what we do and why young people need access to special support.
What’s the most inspirational fundraising story you’ve come across?
It’s tricky to pick one because we’re continually bombarded with stories of amazing supporters, but I started working here in April 2014 and in my first week Stephen Sutton’s thumbs-up went viral. Stephen was an inspiring young man and to see how he captured the nation was special. He was a particularly inspirational young man because despite an incurable diagnosis he was so positive and determined to make a difference and his legacy lives on.
In 2015 we ran an event called Skydive Stephen, in which we broke the Guinness World Record for the most tandem skydive jumps in 24 hours. Breaking this skydiving world record was something that Stephen had put on his bucket list, but unfortunately he was never able to do it before he passed away, so his family asked us if we would take it on for him. We had over 400 supporters show up, and after people jumped they stayed around for the whole day. It was a really special atmosphere.
What would people be surprised to learn about Teenage Cancer Trust?
Something someone said ages ago, which has stuck as a bit of a mantra, is that if you come into Teenage Cancer Trust you’re more likely to be given a hug than a handshake. And that’s quite true, people always laugh about that. They’re surprised that you actually get a hug not a handshake…
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