Legacies make up over a third of our total fundraising. The money the people at Wills pledge us is vital to our work and gives us the long-term financial stability we need to fund the most ambitious and groundbreaking research. Here we talk to Elaine Whelan – who, along with husband Kilian, has pledged 10% of her fortune to advance tomorrow’s research – about why she chose to support our work with a significant legacy.
What inspired you to support our work?
My mother was diagnosed with breast cancer when she was 45 and I was 17. She survived, but was later diagnosed with lung cancer and she died a few years ago. I decided to set up a keepsake donation page – I still put money in it today to celebrate occasions like birthdays and Christmas.
The older I got, the more I became aware of how much cancer affects people’s lives. The company I worked for was behind Relay for Life when it started, and with the amount of support it received and the stories everyone had about their families and friends, it became more and more clear to me that cancer was us really affects everyone.
In 2017 my husband was diagnosed with advanced melanoma.
Which areas of cancer research excite you the most?
Since my mother died of lung cancer, I was initially interested in concrete progress in this area. After my husband’s diagnosis, I learned more about immunotherapy work, which I found interesting. I am also enthusiastic about personalized medicine – the tailor-made treatment of patients based on their genetic makeup. But the most important thing for me now is the ability to detect cancer early on when the treatments are more likely to be successful. The science behind early detection is critical to saving more lives.
I am confident because COVID-19 has shown that bringing together the best scientific minds and providing the right resources leads to amazing things. Many of the developments that arose from COVID-19 have been based on research into diseases such as cancer, as well as the foundations of human biology. I don’t think vaccines would have come anywhere near as fast if the preliminary work hadn’t been done by cancer research institutes.
Why did you choose to leave a gift in your will and what would you say to other people who think about it?
It’s an easy way to give and do something more meaningful than you might possibly be able to do in your life when financial decisions like buying a home and starting other projects get in the way. When you are gone, these things can no longer bother you. And when you’ve made and documented the decision, that’s it – you just leave it until it’s done.
You introduced us to your networks to help us reach new supporters. How important is it to you to use your connections for good causes?
I think people sometimes forget to support charities and the good they do, so I like to remind them. There have been cases in which I have been able to gain professional and personal contacts from myself who are interested in Cancer Research UK.
What does philanthropy mean to you?
I’m just trying to do something good in areas that I think they need. If you see tragic things happen and you are lucky enough to be able to make a life or inheritance donation, I believe you should do so.
By leaving a gift in your will, you can help future generations of cancer patients by advancing the discoveries that lead to life-saving treatments. Email us to find out more.