Prolific fund-raiser for cancer charity, from Lowestoft, is hailed as a ‘local hero’
08:44 25 March 2014
When Mike Willgoss came up with a fundraising initiative, he had little idea where it might lead.
Keen to do his bit to help the fight against cancer, the passionate Lowestoft Town fan launched a charity calendar featuring footballers in a variety of different poses at landmarks across the town.
But four years on he has been hailed a “true local hero” by Prostate Cancer UK after helping raise more than £28,500 with fund-raising efforts across Suffolk and Norfolk, including Great Yarmouth.
Mr Willgoss, 75, was inspired to start fundraising after being diagnosed with prostate cancer – having made a full recovery from breast cancer just three years earlier.
Recalling the diagnosis, he said: “It frightened me to death. For a long while I’d thought about a fundraising calendar, and after speaking with Lowestoft Town it has all stemmed from there. Hearing people’s own stories and talking about it is a big relief in many cases – that is what is driving me on.”
In 2010, the Lowestoft Town FC prostate cancer appeal fund was launched to support the men’s health campaign.
Mr Willgoss organised a calendar for 2011 featuring players, staff and club officials posing for some risqué photos in the town. It sold thousands of copies – with more than £12,500 raised from this initiative alone.
After a year off in 2011, he resumed his charity effort in November 2012 and has been raising money ever since. With the support of his wife Joy, and a team of helpers including Ray Durrant, Rae Mullender, Jack Jillings and Graham Walpole, he has organised bucket collections at stores across Suffolk and Norfolk – raising thousands of pounds in the process.
He has also recruited others to take part in the Movember campaign, encouraging people to hold events, and he is already preparing for Movember events later this year – with plans to extend his fundraising into Norwich.
Mr Willgoss, of Bishops Walk, Gunton, was recognised for his efforts earlier this month when he received an award for his charity work from a Prostate Cancer UK representative – and he will now be given an ambassadorial fundraising title.
His team of local fundraisers were also honoured at the Hotel Hatfield in Lowestoft.
“I was a bit surprised and did not expect any recognition,” he said. “I feel it’s a fantastic honour. I am getting more known in the town, which has helped in getting more people aware of prostate cancer.”
Chris Carter, community fund-raising executive for Prostate Cancer UK, praised Mr Willgoss and all those who had supported him.
He said: “Prostate Cancer UK wants to thank the people of Lowestoft, Beccles and Great Yarmouth for all the support you have given our charity and work through your generous donations over the past few years.
“By raising more than £25,000, Mr Willgoss had made a huge difference,” he added.
“This is an incredible amount of money and allows us to pay for six months worth of research into advanced prostate cancer, which is crucial,” Mr Carter said.
“Mike has been supported by his wife Joy, and together they have made a real impact in the local area and beyond. He is a true local hero.”
Mr Willgoss plans to attend the Sledgehammer football tournament, organised in partnership with Kirkley and Pakefield FC, at Walmer Road on July 6, which will be raising money for Prostate Cancer UK.
■ Have you got a Lowestoft story? Email firstname.lastname@example.org