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Friends of Anita Newman who lived in Storrington have commemorated her 50th birthday by organising a month-long virtual challenge to raise funds for St Barnabas House and Sarcoma UK who supported Anita in her last year of life.
Anita’s close friend, Zoe Larder, came up with the idea for the ‘50 for 50’ fundraiser which has seen over 30 friends each take on 50 challenges throughout September, completing the final part of their challenge on 29 September 2020, which would have been Anita’s 50th birthday.
Zoe, who ran 50 miles over the 29 days, says, “Anita talked about having one hell of a party for her 50th, but sadly that wasn’t to happen. Everyone knew Anita’s drive and passion for fundraising, so with that in mind, to mark her 50th birthday I decided to put on her own charity event.”
Some of Anita’s friends cycled 50 or even 500km, whilst others baked 50 cookies or did 50 sit ups every day. “There were some really unusual challenges too,” adds Zoe.
“One of Anita’s friends took lessons in the harp and learnt 50 new tunes, whilst another, who paints ceramic ducks as a hobby, chose to lose the equivalent in weight of 50 ceramic ducks!, My three-year-old daughter even joined in doing 50 laps of our driveway on her bike, having only learnt to cycle the day before.”
Zoe, a doctor from Taunton, and Anita’s friendship began when they both used to play in bands at naval bases. The pair quickly bonded over their passion for music and fundraising and went on to raise over £60,000 for Cancer Research UK – a cause close to their hearts – by marching with fellow musicians in Race for Life every year from 2009.
Anita had lost both parents to cancer, and despite a diagnosis of breast cancer herself in 2010, she was at the forefront of the fundraising for their team ‘March for Life’. After her breast cancer diagnosis, Anita’s efforts were recognised in 2012 when she was asked to be a torch bearer for the Olympic Games. “Anita was selfless, always doing something for someone else and raising money for charities to help others,” adds Zoe.
Sadly in 2017, having fully recovered from breast cancer, Anita was diagnosed with spindle cell sarcoma – a rare form of muscle cancer in her leg. Treatment was less effective this time and in March 2019, Anita, age 48, was told the sarcoma had spread to the rest of her body. “She was given days to live and fought another 9 weeks. Because that was Anita all over. She was a very strong character,” says Zoe.
During this time, Anita received care from St Barnabas House at home, as well as two stays at the hospice in March 2019 for help with pain and symptom management. When her health deteriorated further, she returned to the hospice in May 2019 where she received end of life care for two and half weeks.
Zoe says, “Anita knew that this would be the last time she would go to the hospice. She knew other people in the local area who had needed to use St Barnabas at the end of their lives, so it was very much her choice to be there. In that time the hospice was very accommodating of visitors and Anita had nothing but praise to sing about the nursing and the care staff.
“Before her death on 18 May 2019, she used to say ‘don’t ever forget me’. That is never ever going to happen, because as the ’50 for 50’ challenge shows, she was such a big part of so many people’s lives and an amazing friend.”
The ’50 for 50’ challenge has raised £1,400 which will be split equally between St Barnabas House and Sarcoma UK. To show your support visit: uk.virginmoneygiving.com/50for50anita