Pride of Britain: Retired teacher raises almost £1m for Cancer Research with 24-hour relay

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A retired PE teacher who lost both her parents and her sister to cancer has been nominated for a Pride of Britain award after raising almost £1million to help fight the disease.

Ann Walsh, from South Tyneside, first organised a 24-hour charity relay in 2007 and the event has continually grown since, raising hundreds of thousands of pounds for Cancer Research.

Candle bags with pictures of people affected by cancer surround the track in Jarrow, encouraging participants to keep going.

"The idea is you have one person from each team on the track all night," Mrs Walsh explained. "I think the thing that keeps people going is reading the candle bags which we put around the track and the messages on there to remind you why you're doing it.

"There can be 400 candle bags, all representing someone who has been affected by cancer in one way or another and then on the hilltop we spell out in candles the word 'hope'."

Ann Walsh lost both her parents and younger sister to cancer. Credit: Handout

Mrs Walsh lost her mum, Peggy, and younger sister Julie to cancer while her dad George also died from the disease, just three months before the first 24-hour run.

"I would have loved my dad to have been around," she said. "He died around three months before the first one so that was always special because I had someone to put a candle bag down for.

"It makes me a bit sad that my parents aren't here to be able to see how much I have achieved because they would be really proud."

Mrs Walsh has already received several awards for her charity work including a British Empire medal. The event is close to reaching the £1million mark making a big difference throughout the North East.

"One million pounds is a phenomenal amount of money and really does make a big difference," Professor Craig Robson, from Newcastle University Centre for Cancer, said. "It funds doctors, doctors in training, scientists and we are particularly good at drug discovery."

"It will support our researchers at our Newcastle centre, helping them make new lifesaving discoveries," Nicky McKenna from Cancer Research added. "That benefits everyone, our wives, husbands, children and parents.

"It really does help those we love and that's because of Ann."

Ann Walsh has raised nearly £1million for Cancer Research. Credit: Handout

The community now want to thank Mrs Walsh for her efforts, nominating her for the Pride of Britain, Fundraiser of the Year Award for the Tyne Tees region.

"Anne is such a wonderful person, she's fantastic at what she does," Councillor Tracey Dixon, leader of South Tyneside Council, said. "She is beautiful inside and out.

"What she does for the community of South Tyneside, for survivors and for people going through treatment for cancer is second to none."

The Pride of Britain awards ceremony will take place later this year.

What is Pride of Britain?

The Pride of Britain Awards celebrate the achievements of truly remarkable people who make our world a better place.

Nominated by the public, the winners are from all walks of life, of all ages, and from all over the country. Their achievements are awe-inspiring and a lesson to us all. They say they are ordinary people, but their acts are truly extraordinary.

Since the first Pride of Britain in 1999, royalty, prime ministers, and hundreds of leading figures from showbiz, sport, politics and the arts have all taken part.

Hosted by Carol Vorderman, the Awards attract an audience of around five million viewers every year in a primetime slot on ITV - making it the highest-rated awards show of its kind on British television.

The winner of the Fundraiser of the Year award for the ITV Tyne Tees region will be announced during the evening programme on Friday 15 September.

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