A well-known cancer charity has said that it is facing an "unprecedented situation", due to the curtailment of fundraising activities.
According to the Marie Keating Foundation, due to the essential decisions that have been made by the Government in relation to social distancing as a result of COVID-19 (coronavirus), it has had to cancel all of its upcoming fundraisers.
This, the charity warned, has had an immediate impact on its income. It receives no government funding and therefore relies on its own and third-party events and campaigns to fund its services.
It is calling on the public to help as it works to continue to support people affected by cancer, who may be feeling more vulnerable than ever at this time.
"The Marie Keating Foundation is so reliant on our main source of income, namely our own events and the public getting behind us with fun runs, bake sales, sponsored cycles etc.., that for all of these to be cancelled immediately with little notice is potentially devastating for us.
"We really do need the public's help to help us continue to offer help to those we support who are now more vulnerable then ever," explained the charity's director of fundraising, Linda Keating.
The charity said that it has taken "proactive steps" to adapt its services so that vital support for cancer patients and survivors can continue.
As part of the collective effort to halt the spread of COVID-19, a number of its nurses have been redeployed to work with the HSE to carry out contact tracing and work on helplines.
The charity is also adapting many of its face-to-face support services into online or webinar formats in order to ensure that vulnerable patients do not feel alone during this challenging time.
"We took the difficult decision to suspend our monthly Positive Living patient support group meetings for women living with metastatic breast cancer, but this is a group that badly needs advice and support particularly during this time of uncertainty and isolation.
"Our nurses are continuing to hold these meetings with members online and are in daily communication with the group via messaging services. What is crucial is that our services continue to operate, offering help to those who rely on it now more than ever. Our team and nurses are here, and we are open to help anyone who needs it. To do this we do need the public's help," explained the charity's director of nursing, Helen Forristal.
Meanwhile, one of the charity's core services, the Comfort Fund, has had to be suspended. This fund provides one-off financial grants to cancer patients who are struggling financially during treatment.
Demand for this fund has jumped in recent years, with applications increasing by almost 400% since 2013. During those years, the charity has supported over 3,600 families nationwide.
According to the charity's CEO, Liz Yeates, the decision to suspend the fund was "difficult but responsible", as it means it can "continue to operate and adapt our other core frontline support services".
"We are very much aware of the impact of this decision and will work closely with our board, medical social workers and key stakeholders to minimise the impact and we will be reviewing the decision on an ongoing basis.
"We have at many times sought support from other funding sources for our fund as we recognise how critical it can be for those who receive it, but unfortunately, we have not been successful. At a time when our income is dropping, we have no choice but to suspend the fund. We very much hope it can be reinstated when the situation improves," Ms Yeates said.
The charity is calling on members of the public to donate what they can to the charity. They can either text MARIE to 50300 to donate €4, of which the charity will receive a minimum of €3.60, or visit www.mariekeating.ie/donate.
For more information on the Marie Keating Foundation, click here.
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