Money raised in memory of an inspirational young man from Yorkshire is funding vital research aiming to find a cure to the bone cancer that took his life. Chris Burn reports.
His amazing life was tragically cut short all too early - but seven years after his death from bone cancer, Alex Albiston has been the inspiration for family and friends to raise almost £120,000 for charity.
Now his father Tim and some of his friends are preparing for another fundraising event this weekend as they take on ITU’s World Triathlon in Leeds.
Alex, from Wickersley near Rotherham, died in March 2010 at the age of 18. He had won a place at Cambridge University to study Spanish and Russian after getting top A-Level grades while dealing with intensive chemotherapy and surgery and sitting his exams in hospital. The keen sportsman had also been a youth player for Sheffield Wednesday and a talented cricketer who was the captain of his club.
Tim, aged 55, says: “Alex started the fundraising in the last year before he sadly died. He did a couple of things for the Teenage Cancer Trust. Then it was his wish that more money was put into research of bone cancer. It is quite a rare cancer and research is not particularly well-funded.”
Tim adds: “He was an amazing lad and he was due to study at Cambridge. Before they had A*s at A-Level, he got five As and he was doing that while he was getting treatment.
“On top of that, he was a fantastic sportsman and played for Sheffield Wednesday until he was 16 and was cricket captain for his club.”
Alex started intensive chemotherapy in September 2008, completing 18 treatments by April 2009 and also undergoing an operation to remove a tumour from his leg. It meant he was in hospital for 85 days during his final year in sixth form but with help from teachers at Wickersley School & Sports College he kept up with his studies, even sitting some of his A-Level exams in hospital.
Incredibly, he managed to achieve the highest possible grades in each of the five subjects he sat and was offered a place at St John’s College, Cambridge, to study Spanish and Russian.
With his cancer in remission, Alex’s future seemed bright. But cruelly, on the day before he was due to start his studies in Cambridge in October 2009, Alex was told the cancer had returned and was in his lungs. He was told his place would be kept open and while undergoing further chemotherapy, Alex helped out with Spanish lessons at his old school and travelled to Madrid, while also helping to organise a number of fundraising events.
His academic achievements were also recognised, with Alex winning a Holbeck Charitable Trust Award for outstanding academic excellence for youngsters in Yorkshire and even more impressively winning the Achievement in Education Award at the Yorkshire Young Achievers event in November 2009.
But he sadly passed away in early 2010 after his health deteriorated further after Christmas.
More than £117,000 has been raised so far in his memory for three charities - the Bone Cancer Research Trust, the Teenage Cancer Trust and the Weston Park Cancer Charity.
In the months before his death, Alex arranged a ‘pink party’ where everyone dressed in pink to raise money for charity. The event has become an annual tradition and more than £5,000 was raised for the Bone Cancer Research Trust at this year’s event in April.
Tim says the money raised both by Alex in the last year of his life and subsequently by friends and family in his memory is making a real difference to the work of the Bone Cancer Trust.
“For every £35,000 they raise, they can fund a research project. It is not a case of the money just being swallowed up. We had an opportunity to visit Sheffield University to see some of the research.
“It is ultimately aiming to find a cure. But unlike say breast cancer where outcomes have improved in the last 25 years, outcomes for bone cancer patients have not dramatically improved.
“It is relatively rare compared to other cancers and it doesn’t get the publicity and attention. But it is one that affects teenagers more.”
On Sunday, Tim and ten of his friends from his Durham University days will be taking part in the ITU’s World Triathlon in Leeds. Competing as four separate relay teams in the Olympic distance event, it will be the first triathlon for most of the individuals, but it is something that they all want to do to raise money for Bone Cancer Research Trust in memory of Tim’s son Alex.
Tim says after he previously left physical charity challenges to others, he now feels it is his turn to take part.
He will be taking part in the cycling leg of his team’s triathlon, with the event acting as something as a warm up for a London to Amsterdam cycle ride he is taking part in this autumn.
Over the course of a weekend in September, Tim and four friends will cycle the 160 miles between the two cities to raise more charity cash.
He says the amount that has been raised that have been raised by friends and family of Alex taking part in events like marathons, sky dives and charity football and cricket matches has been amazing.
“To be honest, my target was £100,000 and I didn’t think we would get there as quickly as we did. But we did that last year.
“It was a big achievement but this year for some reason there have been that many more events. The charity always told me that the first two to three years are the peak for fundraising. But seven years on, we are still raising lots in memory of Alex.”
University friends pull together
More than £4,000 has already been raised by Tim and his university friends for the triathlon challenge this weekend.
The 11 friends from Durham University will be joined by another of Tim’s friends David Pearson for the challenge and are raising money for the Bone Cancer Research Trust.
The group have all stayed great friends despite graduating over 30 years ago and many of them live in Yorkshire, in places such as Baildon, Guiseley and Ripon.
Tim says: “Ever since the day Alex was diagnosed with bone cancer, through the period of his treatment and then since the day he sadly passed away, my university friends have been there to offer their support to my family.”
To sponsor Tim and his friends, visit Durham Uni - Team Bones.