A Christmas dinner dance in memory of a Harlow teacher raised an impressive £11,000 for the breast cancer clinical trials unit at St Margaret’s Hospital in Epping, and Princess Alexandra Hospital in Harlow.
More than 200 people enjoyed Saturday’s ball at Stansted’s Hilton - held on what would have been the eve of Kerrie Fitz-John’s 37th birthday. “Kerrie was a fun-loving person and would have wanted everyone to enjoy the ball, which she actually helped organise,” explained mum Becky Fitz-John, 58, of Mark Hall Moors, Harlow, who was on the event’s organising committee.
“She was passionate about raising money to fund vital breast cancer research trials to improve the treatment for breast cancer sufferers. She organised the first trip to Kilimanjaro and was also the inspiration behind the Bollywood event which now takes place every year.”
Kerrie, who was head of geography at St Mark’s West Essex Catholic School, died in July aged 36. She discovered she had breast cancer in June 2004 - and just three weeks later, her mum was diagnosed too after a routine mammogram.
Becky, a legal secretary at Wilson Davies, in Old Harlow, recalled: “It was awful. Kerrie was diagnosed first and then I was. She went through chemotherapy, radiotherapy and surgery.
“She was always busy and so active. She’d been on three different field trips with the school this year when she got ill at the end of May and she died a few weeks later. It was a terrible shock.”
The family have launched the Kerrie Fitz-John Memorial Trust to carry on fundraising in her memory, and have already booked the Hilton for next year’s black tie ball on Saturday 24 November 2012.
“Kerrie had many friends who gave her tremendous support throughout her illness and stayed close to her in hospital during her final hours,” Becky added. “They all came to the ball to support our fundraising and I’d like to thank everyone who came or donated prizes.”
Becky, who has four grandchildren, was accompanied by Kerrie’s sister, Clare, with her elder daughter Rebecca, 10.
Kerrie taught geography for many years at Brays Grove, until it closed in 2008. Two former pupils from her class there - Peter Watson and Ian Taylor - leave on 21 December to climb Kilimanjaro in memory of Kerrie and to raise funds for her charity. Mum Becky added: “I know she would be immensely proud of these young men.”
Auction lots included a day’s shooting for four at The Royal Berkshire Shooting School, a boxed boxing glove signed by Joe Calzaghe and tickets to see Saracens. The Master of Ceremonies and Auctioneer was Dr Rory McCrea a senior local GP who said, “I am proud to be associated with the charity as the funds raised help patients receive the latest treatments by way of clinical trials”
Ashraf Patel, associate specialist in breast surgery at PAH, said: “Since April 2003 we have raised over £1million and these funds have been used to fund and conduct breast cancer clinical trials.”