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13 December 2022

Camilla, Countess of Halifax, has been a passionate and committed supporter of Macmillan Cancer Support since the 1970s and has served as Macmillan’s President since 2003. In this blog, she reflects on 20 years’ service that concludes this year.

At the end of this year I step down as Macmillan’s President, a role I have held for 20 years, a time I look back on with an enormous sense of pride.  I’ve seen the difference Macmillan Nurses and professionals make to people’s lives, particularly to those who are terminally ill. 

A personal highlight for me is to have played a role in Macmillan’s hugely successful partnership with York Racecourse, with centre stage being given to their annual Macmillan Charity Raceday every June.

Britain’s oldest charity raceday

The 51-year partnership between York Racecourse and Macmillan has raised an incredible £9.5 million for people living with cancer and the annual charity raceday is now well established as Britain’s oldest and most successful charity raceday and Macmillan’s largest single fundraising event. 

During the finale of York Racecourse’s 18-day flat racing season I was honored to accept a cheque for £487,677 for Macmillan.  This impressive figure reflects a wide range of activities that took place across 2022 including the annual Macmillan Charity Raceday, contributions from raceday sponsors, racegoers and donors, the ‘Ride of Their Lives’ amateur race, the ‘Jump of Their Lives’ skydive, a silent auction and York Racecourse itself.  

This money is invaluable to charity’s like Macmillan who have seen a decrease in their charitable donations because of the pandemic and the cost of living crisis, coupled with a huge increase in demand for the support they provide.

Supporting the regions

This support includes ways to help people with cancer with practical, emotional and financial issues, to name just a few.  The charity also uses charitable donations to develop the Macmillan nurses of the future, this year alone Macmillan has invested millions in Yorkshire and the North East of England to train 42 Macmillan Cancer Nurse Specialists.  Macmillan have identified a particular issue in these regions of the country, being that many of the current Macmillan Cancer Nurse Specialists are nearing retirement, and we risk losing their invaluable experience and expertise.  Macmillan’s investment, in part paid for by the money raised with York Racecourse, will ensure many more people have access to the charity’s gold standard personalised cancer support for many more years to come.

Into the saddle at 70

In 2019, as a prelude to my 70th birthday, I signed up for Macmillan’s ‘Ride of Their Lives’, a charity horse race for twelve amateur riders which takes place at Macmillan’s Charity Raceday.  The amateur race sees members of the public completing six months of intense jockey training and fundraising before racing thoroughbred horses on York’s iconic course.  This was a daunting undertaking, especially in my 70th year, however I completed the race and, most importantly to me, raised over £200,000 for people living with cancer.

Although I’m stepping down as Macmillan’s President I will continue to be involved with the charity and Macmillan’s Charity Raceday in June, I would encourage anyone to come along to a day’s racing on the Knavesmire knowing you’re helping people living with cancer.

There is also opportunity to sign up to Macmillan’s ‘Jump of Their Lives 2023’, willing thrill seekers can take part in a tandem skydive over the beautiful Yorkshire countryside, in partnership with York Racecourse next April and help to raise vital funds for this outstanding charity.   

Visit the York Racecourse website for more details.


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