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Volunteering with Pride: Brett’s award-winning involvement with Cancer Research UK

Jacob Smith
by Jacob Smith | Personal stories

15 June 2023

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Brett outside the Cancer Research UK shop he volunteers in
Brett outside the Cancer Research UK shop he volunteers in

From donning a high-vis jacket to ensure Race for Life events run smoothly up and down the country to taking part in our campaigns to make political change, our volunteers are at the core of everything we do.

So today, we want to put the spotlight on one of them.

Brett has been volunteering at our Rotherham store since 2016. But what started as a few hours in the shop each week has grown into him being a vital member of the team.

I went into my local shop for a world cancer day wristband and liked the atmosphere – and before I knew it, I was back in the shop for an induction. The rest is history!

- Brett

A view from both sides

In the superstore, Brett would often chat to customers about cancer, raising awareness of symptoms and encouraging them to make an appointment with their doctor if they were worried.

But that really hit home when he noticed an unusual lump in his testicle.

Naturally that came as a shock, but his experience with Cancer Research UK gave him the knowledge and confidence that he needed to make an appointment with his doctor to get it checked out.

“Our carrier bags tell people to contact a doctor if they’re worried,” he says. “Little did I know this would actually save my life. But it did.”

After an initial appointment with his GP, Brett was referred to Rotherham General Hospital for tests.

He had surgery to remove the testicle within weeks, which was then followed by a single session of chemotherapy. The good news is that his treatment was a success and he’s being monitored regularly. Thanks to his vigilance, his cancer was caught early.

“It’s just made my whole connection with the charity mean that little bit more,” Brett says of his diagnosis.

“It was the scariest time of my life but knowing I was able to turn the negative into a positive by sharing my story and potentially helping others is something that will stay with me forever.”

Experiencing a diagnosis of, and treatment for, cancer has only made Brett more passionate about spreading awareness and breaking down taboos around cancer.

He knows better than most that catching cancer early saves lives.

A flame of hope

For his incredible dedication, Brett won Shop Volunteer of the Year at our Flame of Hope awards in 2021. But Brett’s involvement with us goes far beyond the Rotherham store.

He’s appeared on BBC Radio Sheffield, in the Sheffield Star and Rotherham Advertiser, hosted his own show on Charitable Radio and even lent his voice to our Race for Life events, sharing his story in 2022 and being the voice of the corporate sponsorship messages in 2023.

Brett’s lanyard, showing just a few of the badges he decorates it with
Brett’s lanyard, showing just a few of the badges he decorates it with

He’s also active on his Twitter account, @VolunteerBrett, sharing his favourite #CRUKfinds, as well as updating people on his other volunteering work for Sheffield Children’s NHS Foundation Trust.

And this year, for the first time, he’ll be taking part in the Pride in London parade with Cancer Research UK on the 1st of July. As a proud member of the LGBTQ+ community, we’re thrilled that Brett is joining us to celebrate.

Pride in London is the biggest Pride celebration in the UK. It will be a fantastic moment for our Pride Staff Network to get together and proudly celebrate our fantastic community.

“I am very much looking forward to meeting Brett, who I’ve heard so much about and who has done so much for the charity,” says Chris Doyle, co-chair of our Pride Network.

“As Cancer Research UK, we’re looking forward to bringing members of the Pride Network, from across the UK, together at Pride in London this year.

“We want to beat cancer for everyone, so it’s a fantastic opportunity to not only walk in solidarity and show our support as a charity for all members of the LGBTQIA+ community, but also to meet other members of our own Cancer Research UK community that we might not otherwise get to meet in person.”

The gift of time

Volunteering can come in all sorts of forms.

It can be as short as an hour, or as long as a lifetime. A one-off trial, or a newfound passion. But we know that whatever our volunteers are doing, they’re giving us the most precious gift to help us beat cancer: the gift of their time.

“Every minute matters,” Brett says.

“Volunteers are the beating heart of the shops. It’s a great place to meet others and gain experience, as well as make a real difference to such an amazing charity who do such important work.”