Newspaper article Evening Gazette (Middlesbrough, England)

When Susan Died Leukaemia Was Simply a Death Sentence ...Now It's Not Thanks to the Charity Her Family Set Up

Newspaper article Evening Gazette (Middlesbrough, England)

When Susan Died Leukaemia Was Simply a Death Sentence ...Now It's Not Thanks to the Charity Her Family Set Up

Article excerpt

Byline: By ANGELA RAINEY

LOSING a child is a tragic experience many parents never recover from.

But for Teesside parents Hilda and Dave Eastwood the death of their daughter became the catalyst for saving thousands of lives.

In 1960 their six-year-old daughter Susan was struck down with acute lymphatic leukaemia.

Just six weeks after diagnosis on June 29, two weeks before her seventh birthday, Susan died.

Bereft and stunned housewife Hilda, Dave, a sales rep, and daughter Sylvia, who was 16 at the time, set up Leukaemia Research to raise funds for treatments to prevent other families from suffering the same tragic loss.

Now nearly 50 years on, there are 200 branches of Leukaemia Research raising pounds 22.5m a year and saving thousands of lives all over the UK.

"When Susan died my mother just couldn't accept it, so she thought the best thing to do was to raise some money for research," said Sylvia, now Sylvia Gaunt.

"Nowadays everyone knows someone who has had the condition and there's a survival rate of about 80%, but back then it was few and far between.

"We didn't know anyone who had had it, or how long Susan had had it - but we knew it was a death sentence.

"Her death came like a thunderbolt and it set us on a whole different path."

The Eastwood family formed a committee and set up the charity in the front room of their Langridge Crescent home, Berwick Hills, deciding to sell a music box which neighbours had bought for Susan when she was ill.

It raised the charity's first proceeds of pounds 30.

"It went from there," said Sylvia, who has three children and five grandchildren and now lives in North Yorkshire with husband of 15 years, Walt.

"After that we held functions, jumble sales and made millions of hand-stitched hankies which became factory produced.

"The charity became so big that it needed a permanent location.

"We were getting donations sent all the time and prizes to raffle and were sometimes working until 3am. …

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