09/05/2014 06:26 BST | Updated 08/07/2014 06:59 BST

Recognising the Value of Volunteers to Breast Cancer Campaign

This wonderful occasion gives us the opportunity to thank just a few of our many supporters for their outstanding achievements and dedicated support over the past year, and is, without doubt, one of my favourite events in the Breast Cancer Campaign calendar.

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Tuesday night was a very special evening for Breast Cancer Campaign as more than 300 people gathered at the House of Lords for our annual 'thank you' reception.

This wonderful occasion gives us the opportunity to thank just a few of our many supporters for their outstanding achievements and dedicated support over the past year, and is, without doubt, one of my favourite events in the Breast Cancer Campaign calendar.

I never fail to be moved and inspired by the people I meet who do so much for those diagnosed with breast cancer. Not least, our amazing and steadfast volunteers. And with Volunteers' Week (1-7 June) just around the corner, there's no better time to take stock and recognise their value to our organisation and to what we are collectively able to achieve.

For us, as for many charities across the country, volunteers come in many guises. These are people with a variety of personalities and passions. But there is one constant truth: these are incredibly generous people that believe in the mission of the charity and that freely give up their time to help make a difference.

At Breast Cancer Campaign, we have volunteer groups based around the UK, doing fantastic work to raise awareness of breast cancer in their local communities as well as funds for research. They are our ambassadors, often in the places that we just would not have the resources to reach.

There are also the people who campaign with us on issues such as improving standards of care for breast cancer patients, and students who collect donations tirelessly in towns and cities across the country. And not forgetting our board of trustees, whose work is vital in guiding the charity to achieve our goal of overcoming and outliving breast cancer.

On Tuesday night at the House of Lords, we recognised the work of just some of the people who volunteer their time for Breast Cancer Campaign, including the Pink Ribbon Ball committee, who over the past twenty years have worked tirelessly to organise 19 Pink Ribbon Balls, raising over £2million for life-saving breast cancer research.

In addition, we awarded one of our volunteer groups based on the Isle of Wight, 'Pink on Wight', and student fundraising group Nottingham Karnival, for their fantastic efforts and dedication supporting the charity. There are also inspiring individuals such as Michelle Graham and Julie Hallam, who organise charity events and represent the organisation in their local communities. All extraordinarily generous people who have given up their time to further the work of the charity.

And we're not alone. According to a Cabinet Office survey last year, there are an estimated 15.2million people regularly volunteering in the UK. Behind every volunteer and fundraiser is a story, and it is these inspiring stories that make up the fabric of charitable organisations such as ours.

Volunteers are enabling us, through raising awareness and funds, to reach our goal of overcoming breast cancer quicker.

With their support, Breast Cancer Campaign has funded more than 450 research projects in our lifetime. We established the ground-breaking breast cancer Tissue Bank in 2011 and launched the landmark Gap Analysis and Help us find the cures publications last October, highlighting the critical research gaps that exist in our breast cancer knowledge which we must now urgently address in order to save lives.

Of course, it's not just volunteers we need to thank for helping us achieve all this. It's every single supporter of the charity, including our dedicated corporate partners including Pentel and Travis Perkins, whose efforts were also awarded at the reception.

We also recognised the pioneering work of a team of scientists at the Imperial College London. Dr Eric Lam and his team at the were named 'Research Team of the Year' for their work to help predict who is most likely to respond to certain types of chemotherapy so that all women diagnosed with breast cancer can get the most effective treatment possible.

I would once again like to offer my congratulations to all of those deserved winners. From recognising achievements to looking to the future, I would like to say to all of our supporters - whether you are a volunteer, scientist, trustee or member of staff - each one of you has a vital role to play in helping us achieve our goal of overcoming breast cancer by 2050.

We have made much progress in overcoming breast cancer in the past twenty years, largely thanks to the investments in research made possible by our volunteers and supporters, and the outlook for many patients today is very positive. But breast cancer, as we know, is not a 'done deal'. There are still 50,000 women and men receiving the life-changing news of a breast cancer diagnosis and 12,000 people dying from breast cancer every year. That's 12,000 lives lost too soon and 12,000 families having to face life without a loved one. It is simply too many.

If you want to help make a difference, now's the time to get involved. If you're thinking about volunteering for a cause close to your heart, there will be a huge variety of different ways to get involved. There are so many charities that would be lucky to have you and that would be able to achieve so much more with your support. I would wholeheartedly encourage you to 'bite the bullet' and sign up now.