Fundraiser Janet is one in a million

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MEET Janet Haynes MBE - the woman who was dedicated her life to helping others .

She started fundraising for people with leukaemia after her daughter’s 12 year old friend was diagnosed in 1978.

Janet, 74, has not stopped since and has collected £1.5m for the cause.

The highlights of her fundraising career include meeting stars like Sir Ian Botham, Gary Lineker and Leslie Grantham.

Watching young people she has supported and grown fond of lose their battles with the disease have been the low points.

Janet, who lives in Princethorpe, said: “Everyone was devastated when my daughter Charlotte’s friend was diagnosed with leukaemia.

“Lorraine’s condition moved me to send a donation to Great Ormand Street Hospital and had a very encouraging letter back.

“I have not stopped since.”

In the early days, Janet said only 10 per cent of the people who were diagnosed with leukaemia were cured.

In 1979 Janet helped form the Rugby branch of the Leukaemia Research Fund.

“Sadly, throughout the 80s we lost many more young people. I fondly remember them all,” said Janet.

“Transplants were beginning but were not very successful.”

Janet said some of the toughest times have been helping parents who have a child with the disease.

“It’s a harrowing experience holding the hands of parents as they escort their children to have transplants,” she said.

“I’ve been involved with a lot of families. The death of one boy at Christmas in 1979 was especially upsetting as it was the first one.”

Janet, who is chairman of the Rugby branch of Leukaemia & Lymphoma Research, said so much has changed now and now 90 per cent of children are cured.

She added: “Although this is no consolation for the other 20 per cent, it is a huge improvement for all blood cancers.”

Activities continued throughout the 1980s and the first Ian Botham Walk took place in 1985.

“We took part in quite a few,” said Janet.

“For the last 33 years I have organised coach trips to the Royal Albert Hall Christmas Concert and for 30 years I organised an annual supper dinner dance at the Benn Hall. I also used to organise strawberry teas that took place at Lower Lodge Farm in Brownsover.”

For nearly a decade Janet arranged a fundraiser in London.

She said: “I took a mini bus to the Kings Road in London and assisted with the London Flag Day. On one occasion when it was really hot and the female attire was not all that it should be one male helper remarked that he wasn’t too sure where to put the sticker!”

Janet is probably best known for being the driving force behind Rugby Bikeathon, which she set up in 1995.

The annual event has risen to more than 1,000 entrants, raising awareness as well as much needed funds for charity.

She said: “For many years we had a Christmas card and gift shop either in town or at my house. I have stood in all weathers outside St Andrew’s Church in Rugby and used to be called the ‘Calendar Lady’ as I aimed to sell 1,000 reduced priced calendars after each Christmas.”

Janet has won many awards for her work, including Unsung Hero and Rugbeian of the Year in 1986 after launching an appeal for Walsgrave Hospital and raising £56,000.

“The money was needed for six en suite rooms in ward B3,” she said.

“So many people with leukaemia benefited from them because the drugs make people very sick and before the toilets were fitted it meant they had to struggle down the corridor if they were poorly. It was awful.”

Janet said it is rewarding to see so many people survive blood cancers.

She added: “There is still much to be done for others and I never forget how thankful I am to see Lorraine make a recovery and leading an active life.

“I keep saying I must do less as my body is wearing out due to arthritis, but somehow more turns up and I find it difficult to say no.”

Janet, a fanatical Coventry City supporter who has strong links with St Botolph’s Church in Newbold, said: “I have raised £1.5m but I could not have done it without a lot of help.

“A big thank you to everyone who has helped me other the years.”

Volunteers are needed to help the Rugby branch of the Leukaemia & Lymphoma Research Fund. If you would like to get involved telephone Janet Haynes on 01926 632258.