An East Belfast woman has received a national award from Cancer Research UK in recognition of her outstanding volunteering contribution.
The charity’s annual Flame of Hope Awards acknowledge remarkable efforts in fundraising and volunteering made by people from all walks of life.
Muriel McMaster, who lives in the Belmont area, scooped the accolade, beating off stiff competition from across the UK.
She was named a Cancer Research UK Honorary Fellow at a special online presentation recently in celebration of 33 years unflinching loyalty and dedication as a fundraiser and shop volunteer.
Mrs McMaster started volunteering for the charity in 1987 in memory of her mother, Helen, who died after being diagnosed with breast cancer when Muriel was just five.
Her enthusiasm for volunteering has inspired many people to raise funds for vital research.
Adele Stevenson, local fundraising manager, who nominated Muriel for the award said she was “a beacon of light in her community” who had shown exceptional dedication to the charity, championing Cancer Research UK in her role as secretary of the Belmont and Holywood committee and volunteering in the Holywood shop.
Muriel said: “I love being on the committee and meeting new people and through volunteering with Cancer Research UK I have not only met so many wonderful friends but have been able to fundraise for vital research into cancer treatments.
“When my husband died my work with Cancer Research UK helped me a lot as it was an outlet to focus on something positive I could do and meant that I stayed busy socially with my fundraising efforts.
“I enjoy fundraising and volunteering so much, from selling my homemade jam and marmalade, to hosting annual garden parties, quizzes and carol services and working with charity partners and in the shop. Covid-19 has presented some challenges for our committees but we will stay focused in our efforts to raise much needed funds for life-saving research.”
Muriel was among a total of 61 individuals and groups from across the UK recognised by the Flame of Hope awards. She has received a trophy and a certificate posted to her home.
This was in place of a ceremony in London hosted by Cancer Research UK’s chairman, Sir Leszek Borysiewicz, which had to be cancelled due to COVID-19.
The pandemic has caused a devastating loss of funding for cancer research. Following the cancellation of fundraising events like Race for Life, Cancer Research UK is expecting a staggering £160 million drop in income in the year ahead. As a result, the charity has made the difficult decision to cut £44 million in research funding.
Michelle Mitchell, Cancer Research UK’s chief executive, said: “The Flame of Hope awards give us the opportunity to celebrate and say thank you to our enormously generous volunteers and supporters for their fantastic work.
“Covid-19 has slowed us down but we will never stop. We are determined to continue our research to create better treatments for tomorrow. Cancer Research UK has continued to work through world wars, recession and other periods of major disruption. We remain as focussed as ever on beating cancer and I want to thank everyone who has supported us through this time.
“Cancer Research UK’s pioneering work in to the prevention, diagnosis and treatment of cancer has helped save millions of lives but that’s only possible thanks to the commitment of our supporters and volunteers, without whom it would not be possible to fund outstanding scientists, doctors and nurses.”
Jean Walsh, Cancer Research UK spokesperson for Northern Ireland said: “Every step we make towards beating cancer relies on every pound, every hour and every person.
“These awards are our way of honouring incredible people like Muriel who give their time freely to raise money for research and promote greater awareness of the disease, and yet ask for nothing in return.
“It’s thanks to the support of the fundraising public and our amazing army of volunteers that we can continue to make a real difference and bring forward the day when all cancers are cured.”
For more information about Cancer Research UK visit cruk.org