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‘One of the world’s greatest humanitarians’ - Bob Woodward, Bristol founder of CLIC Sargent charity, dies aged 85

Bristol fundraiser and charity founder Bob Woodward has died, aged 85 (pictured at the Pride of Britain awards in 2011) Photo: ITV News West Country

A dedicated fundraiser from Bristol who founded the UK’s leading charity for children with cancer has died.

Bob Woodward – who founded Cancer and Leukemia in Childhood (CLIC) after his son, Robert, was diagnosed with cancer – died yesterday (January 20) at the age of 85.

Bob's daughter, Rachel Woodward Carrick, said he, “spent his entire life thinking of ways in which he could make life better for people”.

During his lifetime, he raised more than £100million for charity and had received a number of accolades for his work.

This included a Pride of Britain award in 2011, an honorary degree from the University of Bristol, an OBE from the Queen and he was selected as one of Great Western Railway’s top 50 ‘Great Westerners’ - which led to a train being named after him.

Bob received a Pride of Britain award in 2011 Credit: ITV

He was once described as “one of the world’s greatest humanitarians” by Mikhail Gorbachev, the former leader of the Soviet Union, and, “a truly unsung hero who takes our breath away” by former Prime Minister David Cameron.

Bob’s charitable work first started in 1974, when his eight-year-old son Robert was diagnosed with cancer.

The prognosis for children with cancer was exceptionally bleak at the time, with just three in 10 children diagnosed with the disease surviving.

While visiting his son at Frenchay Hospital, Bob witnessed firsthand the struggles families were facing while their children were undergoing treatment - with parents often sleeping on the floors of hospital wards to stay as close as possible to their loved ones.

It was this experience that led Bob to think of ways in which he could personally fund, and in turn pioneer, a huge improvement in the welfare of young cancer patients and their families.

Before the illness came into the family's life, Bob had run Woodward Brothers with his brother John - an extremely successful property development company.

Bob meeting with Mikhail Gorbachev Credit: ITV News West Country

His immediate answer to what he had seen was to make use of some of the homes in his property portfolio, which he developed and furnished entirely at his own cost in order to create CLIC cottage - the UK's very first 'Home-from-Home' facility.

It was a place within the hospital grounds where families could be together while their child was undergoing treatment.

In 1976, Bob downed tools and launched himself entirely into his mission to improve standards of treatment, care, and support for other families that had found themselves in the same position as he had.

That same year, he founded CLIC to specifically serve the South West but its resounding success across the region soon led to the charity becoming CLIC UK, and then CLIC International - with Mikhail Gorbachev travelling to Bristol to accept Bob's invitation to be president of the organisation.

The charity not only developed revolutionary research and treatment programmes, but also gathered a huge number of staff and volunteers to serve CLIC in innumerable ways - dedicating their money, energy, and time to working for a better future for children affected by cancer and leukemia.

Little by little, thanks to CLIC funding and its commitment to spearheading childhood cancer research, survival improved.

Sadly, Bob's beloved son Robert died at the age of 11 in 1977.

Bob raised more than £100million for charity during his lifetime

A year after his death, the family were blessed with the arrival of another son, Hugh. He was diagnosed with Down's Syndrome, and tragically passed away four years later after suffering a heart attack.

Despite the sense of grief within his own home, Bob incredibly found the time to personally give pastoral care to desperate families, and in the 21 years he was at the helm of the charity, he attended 300 funerals of young cancer sufferers, speaking at most of them.

In 2005, CLIC merged with Sargent Cancer Care for Children. Even today, CLIC Sargent continues to operate with the ethos first set out by Bob, and today eight out of 10 children who are diagnosed with cancer survive.

After taking up a presidential role with CLIC in 1998 at the age of 65, Bob took on his second charitable role when he became the chief executive of The Starfish Trust. Based in Almondsbury, the organisation funds the care and support of children suffering from life-threatening illnesses and disabilities.

His tireless efforts with The Starfish Trust were pivotal in the development of six regional specialist hydrotherapy pools for disabled children, a meningitis research laboratory at the University of Bristol, Charlton Farm children's hospice, The Starfish Technology Centre for disabled students at the National Star College in Cheltenham, and a specialist 35-bed children's hospital unit within the grounds of Frenchay Hospital, which has now been demolished.

Despite being diagnosed with inoperable prostate cancer in 2003, Bob spent years championing a wide variety of children's charity initiatives, as well as projects such as securing a village green in Frenchay.

He is survived by his wife Judy, daughter Rachel, son James, and granddaughter Laura.