Sadly, and as the followers of Nicki’s Smile know, there is a tragic story behind my nomination. To give you some background, here is the nomination application from my mum, taken from the London 2012 torchbearer website:
“My son`s young wife died of cancer in November 2010 aged 33. As well as leaving him absolutely devastated he was faced with the daunting task of bringing up a bereft 3 year old son. In the past months he has pushed himself to the limits in his role as a single parent. His strength has been incredible to behold. When his wife became ill he shouldered his responsibilities unwaveringly. He cared for her with unending love and devotion and was by her side every single step of the way, never missing a single hospital test or treatment.
He has now adopted such a role with his young son Joshua and has given up his career in the city while he ensures that Joshua has a loving and stable home. And through all of this he has never once complained about his lonely and difficult situation. He has set up a charity in memory of his beloved wife ring- fenced by Pancreatic Cancer U.K. and has already raised a considerable amount of money towards ensuring earlier diagnosis of this terrible disease. The charity is called Nicki`s Smile (www.nickissmile.com) because that is what she did until the day she died, never complaining or asking why.
I feel that if he were lucky enough to be chosen to bear the torch it would be an amazing symbol of hope for him and would also show that he and Joshua, are carrying her light & legacy forward. He is determined, that by trying to help others beat this awful disease then Nicki did not die in vain.”
So what’s a day in the life of a torchbearer like?
It was a particularly early start as Channel 5 News had kindly offered to follow me on the day. I must thank their Senior Programme Editor Richard Zackheim for arranging this. The help and support Channel 5 News has provided in raising the profile of Nicki’s Smile has been phenomenal.
Filming commenced at 6.30am and I then departed for my torchbearer meeting point in Croydon. The nerves were really starting at this point as the sheer enormity of the occasion suddenly dawned on me. I donned my uniform and then met and chatted to my fellow torchbearers.
I was slightly surprised by the eclectic mix of torchbearers. Some were rightly chosen for their incredible community and voluntary sector efforts. Others were chosen for very different reasons – they were board members of global corporations. A sign of the sponsorship times we live in. We were joined by one celebrity, Sir Patrick Stewart and he was incredibly moved by the occasion.
After meeting and greeting, we were given a briefing by the 2012 torch team. It wasn’t rocket science, but we were advised where to stand, how to hold the torch and how fast we should walk/jog. We were then taken to our torchbearer bus and departed for our drop-off locations. We were all overwhelmed by the incredible public turnout. As I reached my drop-off in the busy Pedestrianised Shopping Area, the crowd was so deep the bus struggled to pass!
I left the bus to rapturous applause from my fellow torchbearers and entered a cauldron! I couldn’t believe how many people had come to see me run! I was quickly mobbed my people wanting their photo with the torch. I duly obliged and then realised how famous people must feel whenever they go out in public.
My few moments of fame had arrived. I could see the previous torchbearer running towards me and I was then beckoned into position. We shared a ‘torch kiss’ and after posing for media photos I then set off on my 280 yard journey.
At this point the nerves had evaporated. I was soaking up the incredible atmosphere, waving to one and all in the crowds. I spotted my family and friends but was unable to stop. Before I knew it, my run was over and I passed the flame to the next torchbearer. As I was whisked onto my torchbearer bus I saw many familiar faces in the crowd! They started chanting my name and everyone else followed! It spread to the rest of the surrounding crowd and I was left speechless. What a few moments of fame!
I was presented with my torch at the drop-off point and after finishing the Channel 5 News interview I then met up with my family before heading home.
It meant the world to me to be a torchbearer. The sole reason I was chosen was because of Nicki’s passing and how I am treasuring her memory through my charitable efforts.
It was an incredible and emotional day. I was really touched to see so many members of my family and friends and the thousands of local residents that came to support me. It was fantastic to see so many Bushey congregants there. I will never forget the way Rabbi Richards and others led the crowd in chanting my name!
The atmosphere was electric. I was carrying the torch for Nicki and I know she was smiling down on a truly beautiful day. The torch will be passed down through the generations and treasured for eternity. It was a day I will never forget.
My very close friend Matt Hersch, recently finished the gruelling Lands’ End to John O’Groats bike ride.
It was tough, physically and mentally, but Matt overcame all obstacles along the way to complete the daunting challenge!
Matt successfully completed the 1000 mile event in just two weeks and raised an incredible £9,000 for Nicki’s Smile. Matt has been an inspiration to many and spent over a year in training for this event. Matt is a Senior Clinical Project Manager for a pharmaceuticals company and lives in Cambridge.
Get Motivated! Be in touch to see how you can help to raise money for Nicki’s Smile!
Following the resounding success of the Nicki’s Smile Fundraising Dinner in November, we are excited to announce our next event ‘An Evening of Magic’, at the Finchley Arts Depot, 5 Nether Street, London, N12 0GA on Sunday 13th May 2012.
The event will start at 7.45pm and we are thrilled that the following well-known magicians will be performing:
Nicholas Einhorn Winner on Penn & Teller’s Fool Us
Tickets are only £20 per person and seats will be allocated on a first-come first-served basis,so please don’t delay!
To reserve your seats, email us at email@example.com
Tickets will be available for collection upon arrival at the venue.
Please do spread the word about this event and the work of Nicki’s Smile to all your family, friends and contacts in hope that we can continue to grow and raise much needed funds. Follow us on Twitter (@nickissmile) for more information.
We look forward to seeing you on 13th May for what promises to be a very enjoyable evening. Thank you for your continued support.
On the evening of Sunday 20th November 2011, we held our inaugural event, a fundraising dinner at Sopwell House in St. Albans. Three hundred and thirty people attended including Maureen Lipman CBE, Strictly Come Dancing favourite, Rachel Stevens and stand-up comedians, Ian Stone and Mark Maier.
Nicki’s Smile was set up in memory of Nicki Blake. Nicki was a young wife and mother from Bushey who taught at Little Green Junior School in Croxley Green. She lost her twenty month battle with Neuroendocrine Pancreatic Cancer, the same rare type of cancer as Steve Jobs, in November 2010, aged just 33, leaving behind her devoted husband Dan Blake and 3 year old son, Joshua.
Dan Blake set up Nicki’s Smile in memory of his wife, together with Pancreatic Cancer UK, the only national charity dedicated to fighting pancreatic cancer through support, information, research and campaigning.
After the event Dan Blake said, “The launch fundraising dinner was an amazing success and I’m delighted that we raised over £100,000. To date Nicki’s Smile has raised an astounding £150,000 and the money will be used to fund vital research into early diagnosis of pancreatic cancer with the aim of improving survival rates that have been dormant for a generation. The goal is to ensure that in the future, pancreatic cancer’s awful survival statistics are improved. Better understanding, early diagnosis initiatives and improved treatment options can make this a reality.”
Professor Martyn Caplin, Professor of Gastroenterology and Neuroendocrine Oncology at the Royal Free Hospital, London, where Nicki was treated said, “The evening was a wonderful tribute to Nicki Blake and how bravely she fought her pancreatic neuroendocrine cancer. It is the memory of Nicki and other similar courageous patients that drives our research team to strive for advances in earlier diagnosis and better treatment so that future patients with these rare cancers can benefit with longer survival.”
Maureen Lipman, CBE, commented, “I am delighted to be associated with such a worthy cause. I really hope that the money raised by Nicki’s Smile will prevent other families suffering the same pain as Nicki Blake’s loved ones. Pancreatic cancer research is very underfunded so charities such as Pancreatic Cancer UK and Nicki’s Smile are vitally important in the fight to improve survival statistics.”
Rachel Stevens, commented, “As a mother I can’t imagine the anguish that Nicki Blake went through when she thought that she might not be around to see her gorgeous son Joshua grow up. I hope that the research funded by Nicki’s Smile will one day prevent this from happening to another family.”
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