Later this month, scores of locals will take part in the world’s biggest coffee morning to raise cash for charity – but for one salon owner it will be particularly poignant.
Jay Kennedy will have no fewer than four relatives on her mind as she hosts her own Macmillan Coffee Morning at her business, Coco’s Hair and Beauty Unisex Salon on Clepington Road.
The nationwide event sees shops, community centres and businesses get together for a cake and a cuppa to raise money for the cancer support charity. It raised £28 million in 2018.
But for the 34-year-old the event on September 27, from 11am-3pm, is an opportunity for her to say thank you to Macmillan for the support it has offered her family over several years, having lost three relatives to cancer.
Her gran Betty Patterson, 80, developed breast cancer and later COPD and died in 2012.
Jay’s uncle James Patterson was 55 when he died of bowel cancer in 2013, while her stepdad Raymond Money, died of lung cancer at 52 two years ago.
To top it off, her son Paul’s granddad, Walter Reilly, 57, is waiting to see if his own lung cancer is retreating following chemotherapy and radiotherapy.
“My uncle was 54 when he was diagnosed – he never did the test you get in the post,” Jay said.
“He would’ve never gone into hospital for something like that.
“My auntie and my mum took it upon themselves to care for him around the clock. I think it’s still on their minds to this day.
“As for my stepdad, he was fine one day – working full-time and everything – then he just collapsed in the street.
“He found out in hospital he had a brain tumour and lung cancer. He got home and the nurses were coming out to the house.
“We thought he was getting better but four weeks from his collapse he was dead. When it happens like that you don’t have time to think about it.”
Jay and her extended family have depended on Macmillan to get through the toughest of times – and want to use the coffee morning as an extra special way to say thanks.
Alongside the usual coffee morning fare Jay will be hosting raffles and providing haircuts and braids for donations.
Walter will even be braving the shave – and his son Freddie is set for a live chest wax.
In short, Jay wants to make her event a coffee morning like no other, and one to remember.
“The Macmillan nurses have always been really good with us – nothing was ever too much for them,” Jay added.
“This is a thank you to them. I don’t know how they do it.
>> Keep up to date with the latest news with Evening Telegraph newsletter
“I’ve done the Race for Life for Cancer Research before but raising money for Macmillan is a lot more personal to me because I’ve seen what they do face-to-face.
“They give you all the support you could ever ask for – and you feel like they really want to help you, there and then.
“It gets you thinking about my own generation, and how cancer seems to be getting closer and closer (to people my age).
“I’ve seen people I went to school with develop cancer and they seem to be getting younger.
“Putting on a coffee morning is a chance to bring everyone together. I don’t get to see my family every day, so it will be nice.
“We’re going to have balloons in the shop that we’ll release at the end of the day, in memory of anyone who has been lost to cancer.”