One of Britain’s most prolific fundraisers – who has amassed more than £50million for cancer research – is to retire after being struck down with the disease himself.
Generous Bob Woodward, 77, founded the charity CLIC following the death of his son 33 years ago, ploughing millions into combating the deadly illness.
The selfless pensioner led an unprecedented charitable career, generating huge investment in cancer research, treatment and respite care.
But in a cruel twist of fate, he is now stepping down after being diagnosed with inoperable prostate cancer.
The dedicated donor was inspired to fundraise after his 11-year-old son Robert contracted a throat cancer called neuroblastoma-one in 1974.
It was during Robert’s treatment at Bristol Children’s Hospital that Bob and wife Judy first started to make a difference to the lives of others.
Bob said: ”Robert had great courage and great faith.
”He was the inspiration at the start, and he’s been my inspiration ever since. He’s with me every day.
”I realised lots of the other families at the Bristol Children’s Hospital were having to travel miles, sometimes from as far afield as Land’s End and the Isles of Scilly.
”I ran a building company with my brother, and we owned a bungalow that we planned to knock down.
”But seeing so many families in need of a home away from home, we decided to convert it into accommodation for them.
”Judy acted as housekeeper, and would put groceries in there so the family felt welcome when they arrived.
”We felt it was important that somebody was there to support the families. After all, we knew how tough it was.”
After the death of Robert three years later, Bob stumped up #140,000 to allow the consultant at Bristol Children’s Hospital to continue at the facility.
That inspired the father, from Bristol, to start up CLIC (Cancer and Leukaemia in Childhood) in 1976, which later merged with the Sargent Cancer Fund to become CLIC Sargent.
He battled on despite the loss of a second son to Down’s Syndrome aged just four – and 34 years later he boasts a #50million legacy of help for those fighting cancer.
CLIC Sargent has 26 branches and 23 charity shops and owns accommodation within a short distance of the country’s seven major children’s cancer centres.
It has expanded to cover pastoral care facilities, including the Clic holidays for young cancer patients and respite for families.
Bob said: ”I could see that fundraising was an important part of my work.
”But I always felt the most important thing was the pastoral work getting to know families personally, and being able to offer support.
”We were one big family, and that was the most rewarding thing for me.”
The charity’s nurses now treat children in their own homes, cutting out the need to make long journeys to hospital.
The hardworking housebuilder even managed to appoint former Russian leader Mikhail Gorbachev as president of the charity during the 1990s.
CLIC has also helped to fund a number of research projects aiming to improve knowledge about childhood cancer and leukaemia.
As well as CLIC, tireless Bob has held leading roles in the Jack and Jill Appeal, the Children’s Hospice for Bristol Appeal and disabled children’s charity the Starfish Trust.
His remarkable charitable career has seen him raise increasing funds year-on-year and attend the funerals of 300 cancer sufferers.
But as his health faded, doctors confirmed Bob was suffering inoperable prostate cancer in 2003.
He has battled on but his failing health has prompted him to announce his retirement when he turns 78 next spring.
”I just try to self-medicate with herbalism to keep myself ticking over,” he said.
”But it will be nice to enjoy a little retirement while I can. I know I’m past my sell-by date these days.
”But I’ve been working so hard for so long, I actually don’t know how well I’ll cope with a relaxing retirement.
”I have always been guided by a higher force, and I’m sure he still has a few more jobs for me to do before the end.”