By the age of 19, most of us have achieved a couple of life milestones: we've hopefully left school, secured a job, started university. Not many of us will have launched a career in motivational speaking, raised £5,000,000 for charity, or become the inspiration and pride of an entire country. Yet Stephen Sutton, the Staffordshire teenager with terminal bowel cancer whose fundraising efforts went viral during his final days earlier this year, managed all this by the end of his 19 years.
Stephen is the biggest single fundraiser in Teenage Cancer Trust's history. The charity, which supports 13-24 year olds diagnosed with cancer, has finally announced what they are going to do with the almost 340,000 donations made worldwide towards Stephen's cause. Stephen requested that money raised in his name was to be used to help Teenage Cancer Trust 'keep doing what you're doing'; namely, improving the quality of life and survival chances of teenagers and young adults with cancer.
Around £2,900,000 will be spent on building and improving 8 Teenage Cancer Trust specialist units across the UK. The units in Edinburgh, Glasgow, London, Liverpool, Oxford, Nottingham and Sheffield, will provide specialised and age-appropriate care to young cancer patients in these regions, giving a wider number of sufferers access to the unparalleled, dedicated environment Stephen himself was treated in.
A further £1.2 million will be invested in training and research. Professional training and development will improve the quality of care provided by all medical practitioners who work with teenage and young adults with cancer - nurses, doctors, youth support workers, counsellors and psychologists -, reflecting the charity's aim to provide not only medical support but also to allow young people to continue being young people in spite of their illness. In recognition of Stephen's aspirations to become a doctor - Stephen had hoped to study medicine at Cambridge before receiving news that his cancer was terminal -, a Stephen Sutton Scholarship foundation has been established at Coventry University to fund postgraduate studies in teenage and young adult cancer care.
Research money will be go towards initiatives and posts with the National Cancer Research Institute's Teenage and Young Adult Clinical Studies Group and the National Cancer Intelligence Network. Unlike children and older adults' cancer, very little research has been undertaken on teenage cancer, so Stephen's contribution will provide a vital boost to this critical yet understudied area.
Half a million will go towards a digital information platform to provide young people with information on the disease, and to connect patients with each other to share their stories and support one another online. To bring young cancer patients together in person, a final £200,000 will support travel costs to Teenage Cancer Trust's Find Your Sense of Tumour events over the next five years.
In a message to supports of Teenage Cancer Trust, the charity's director of fundraising, Kate Collins, said: 'The generosity of those who supported Stephen and the thousands of you who supported us before and after Stephen's Story has helped us put some essential foundations in place much sooner than we thought we could, but we can't stop now'.
£5,000,000 is an awful lot of money, but its value is way beyond the number of noughts in the figure. The contribution that Stephen Sutton's legacy will make to improving the quality of life and chances of survival to young people across the UK is inestimable. Yet while Stephen's story has put teenage cancer on the map, there is still a great deal of work to be done. Donations made in Stephen's name grab the headlines, but it is the everyday donations by you and me that charities rely on: a fiver here, a purchase at a charity shop there.
So let's heed Stephen's request and keep going: every pound, every charity run, every bake sale brings us a penny, a step or a cake nearer to the goal of assuring every young person with cancer has access to the best treatment, care and support available. For that would be an even greater legacy.