At the beginning of this academic year, St Andrews did not have a cancer awareness day – no one was wearing those little tartan ribbons you have been seeing around town, and the committee organising the event hadn’t even been formed.
Fast forward to this week, and the campaign seems to be everywhere in St Andrews. “Everyone has been so generous and enthusiastic,” said Caitlin Reid, who is in charge of sponsorship for the event. “It’s been really touching.”
The project is the brainchild of Sarah Engstrand, a fourth-year student who wanted to do something to honour the memory of her mother, whom she sadly lost to cancer this time last year.
“Sarah said she felt very isolated when her mum was unwell and she really appreciated it when there was someone who was maybe going through something similar she could talk to,” says Megan Edwards, another committee member. “I think now she wants to show other people that they’re not alone.”
[pullquote]Sarah said she felt very isolated when her mum was unwell. I think now she wants to show other people that they’re not alone.[/pullquote]
Did they get involved just to support their friend Sarah? “Yes and no,” says Caitlin. “It’s also something that’s really close to my own heart, having had grandparents battle cancer myself. There are lots of people on the committee who didn’t know Sarah at all and just responded to her open message on Facebook asking people to get involved – it’s unbelievable how many people’s lives have been touched by cancer.”
The girls explain that the original intention was to sell ribbons and encourage people to wear them on 3 April “to show solidarity for people who have been affected by cancer.” But support and enthusiasm for the cause was so strong that the project quickly grew into the full-blown awareness campaign it has now become. “The Rule have been amazing and it was really their idea to host a pub quiz there, so that there was one big gathering people could come along to,” Caitlin says. “It’s all been a bit frantic making sure everything runs smoothly!”
Raffle tickets have been selling fast all week, and both girls seem genuinely excited to pick out the winners on Thursday. I can’t resist popping over to The Rule after our interview to buy a strip myself. For the small sum of £1, I am now in with a chance of winning a bottle of whiskey, some free Dr Noodle and a tour of Eden Brewery, among other things. I’m told that if I return on Thursday there will be home baking for sale on the bar, donated by supporters of the event.
“We want the proceeds from this week to go towards making a practical difference to the lives of families who are battling cancer,” Megan tells me. “Even things like tea bags can make a big difference if you’re in that situation.”
After the end of this week, the plan is for the committee to put together some gift baskets and bags to distribute in the local area. “It’s unrealistic to say we can give something to every family, but we want to do as much as we possibly can. It’s a cause that’s really close to all of our hearts and we know that even a small donation can help people who are going through a really hard time.”
[pullquote]I think if one person shows enthusiasm, then other people will want to get involved[/pullquote]
With most of the committee graduating this year, are they worried the event might be a one time only occurrence? “Not really. Sarah has already spoken to some of the third years about taking on the event next year,” explains Caitlin, “so we’re pretty confident it’s going to become an annual thing. I think if one person shows enthusiasm, then other people will want to get involved.”
The St Andrews cancer awareness day committee will be outside the library 12-4 pm on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday and 12-4 pm on Thursday at the Rule selling ribbons and raffle tickets in advance of the prize draw on Thursday evening. For more information, check out the Facebook event here.