What is The Marcus Rutherford Foundation Cancer Trust?
Several years ago, a young girl was receiving treatment for cancer. She was always either under or over her normal weight because of the chemotherapy.
One day, the girl received a cheque for £100 - which her friend immediately cashed. Soon after, the friend returned with new pyjamas, dressing gowns, slippers, t-shirts and other new items of clothing.
The girl described the kind act as if it was something “sent from the Gods”. She is just one of the many young people across the UK who have had a positive impact in their life because of The Marcus Rutherford Foundation.
The Sporting Bears Motor Club has raised money for The Marcus Rutherford Foundation at several events. Being a curious member of the Sporting Bears, I wanted to learn more about the Marcus Rutherford Foundation and so I spoke with Mike Rutherford, who currently leads the organisation.
The cancer trust was established by Marcus Rutherford, who was diagnosed with leukaemia at the age of 18 - but this didn’t stop him from doing all the things he felt passionate about. Marcus recorded a music album, made multiple short films, played at live venues across the country and even started a degree course at the University for the Creative Arts. In his final weeks, he launched the Marcus Rutherford Foundation - and his father, Mike Rutherford, agreed to take care of the cause.
Mike said: “Marcus started it all when he met a student in the hospital. He was in England on his own, with his university friends being his only support. The hospital at which he was being treated had a £7 daily charge to use the television in his room. The boy didn’t have £7 for food, let alone a TV, so Marcus went out and bought him a TV - which had a DVD slot in the side so he could be given some DVDs as well. For £150, this young man was given a television - and soon enough, people needed other things, such as mobile phones. Some people wanted more expensive things than others - and for this reason, we found that the best way to do what we do is to send everyone a £100 cheque.”
I find the work conducted by the Marcus Rutherford Foundation extraordinary - but not just because of the money; it’s the positive impact which these kind acts have on the lives of so many young people.
Mike said: “We knew a girl who was in a hospice and she didn’t have a laptop or a computer. The day we found out, Marcus’ brother went to John Lewis and bought a laptop - which was delivered to her that day.
“This girl wasn’t speaking; she shut down, she knew her fate. The social worker who handed her the laptop said that as soon as she put on the laptop, she went onto YouTube and started singing along to a Beyoncé song - and when the girl wrote us a note, she said, “You can’t believe how much that cheered me up. I felt so low, I couldn’t talk to anybody - and then when you delivered the laptop, I started singing”. And I know that, because the social worker told us. That’s a sad but amazing story for me.”
To the patients, young adults in particular, these are so much more than just cheques. For them, they’re also a show of support from people who truly care.
Mike said: “The cheque is made out to them personally - or the parent if they’re too young - and the main response we get from young adults is, “How do you know about me? Nobody knows about me, nobody cares about me. I’m just in this room on my own, fighting this battle”. We always reply and tell them that lots of people don't just know, but care about them.”
Even though there are plenty of donations to support their cause, not a single member of the organisation is on a salary - and not a single penny contributes to the members’ expenses.
I am a member of Sporting Bears, which is an organisation with the same ethos of using all the money for a good purpose. All the money for our expenses, such as fuel and accommodation, comes out of our own pockets. With that being said, what we do is very different to what the Marcus Rutherford Foundation does as we raise money, whereas they have to be the ones to put it to good use - and it was interesting to hear how they do this.
He said: “We were actually invited to speak at a conference once about how micro-foundations and how micro-charities work. The people there couldn’t believe how we do what we do. My opening line to a well-known cancer charity was, “I know a few of you are on £80,000 salaries - and you’re asking me how we can get this money out to people and you can’t.” There’s not a single person in the foundation who is on a salary. We don’t have company cars, we don’t have salaries and our home is our corporate HQ.
“When I wanted to work with The Sporting Bears Motor Club, they asked me so many questions and it was like applying for a mortgage - but they just wanted to be sure that the money was going to go in the right direction.”
In 2021, Sporting Bears also attended the British Motor Show. In total, we raised over £40,000 at the event; 100% of which was equally divided between the three organisations we were supporting, one of which was the Marcus Rutherford Foundation.
“We actually increased the figure from £13,700 to £15,000 so then it could come out as a nice £5,000 for the three months of winter.”
The money the foundation receives is not only used to offer help to young people affected by cancer, but it’s also used to help research into the causes of cancer and assist with early diagnosis.
Mike said: “It can’t be right that young people are losing their health and their lives at such a young age when nothing is actually being done in terms of cure and prevention and early diagnosis - so let’s have some more early diagnosis.
“I hate to be so blunt as to make a car analogy, but every new car is just a piece of metal, which isn’t that important. If something happens to it, you can buy another one because it’s probably insured; or you can afford to buy a new one, or you can save up and buy another one if it goes wrong. But even with a scrap of metal like a motorcar, you’ve got a service book and a certificate - you have all these checks.”
To raise awareness, the foundation acquired a £50,000 van - which Peugeot kindly helped them with.
Mike said: “It’s like a mobile clinic. The idea is that we go into schools with the bus, as we do occasionally, and we educate people about cancer and early diagnosis and awareness. The ultimate aim is to ask the question as to why there can’t be a fleet of these vehicles going into schools, colleges, and unis across Britain doing blood tests, doing other tests, giving youngsters an annual - not an MOT and a service - something whereby they can be seen by a professional. Blood tests like I say, even visual checks - some cancers can be spotted through a mole on a shoulder for instance. The whole idea is to get people thinking of early diagnosis and prevention, rather than cure.”
Although it probably isn’t possible for regular individuals such as myself to conduct research into the causes of cancer, it is still possible to save lives - and this was the key takeaway for me from my conversation with Mike.
A key issue today is finding people who are the right match for a bone marrow transplant, however Mike explained how simple the process is.
He said: “People come up to us and say that it’s quite a painful exercise. It used to be, but it’s not anymore - and we show them the device that we can arrange to send them, which basically involves giving your DNA. You leave a saliva sample in it, you seal the unit, you put it in an envelope, you send it off to an organisation and they will tell you if your proposed donation is any good. We know of someone who’s done that twice - and he saved two lives, because he was a perfect match.”
Then when it comes to extracting the bone marrow itself, although it once was a rather traumatising experience, today it’s painless and simple to save a life.
“Instead of going into the spine and taking the bone marrow out, what they do now is they put something around your arm and you sit there for a couple of hours with your phone. You don’t feel any pain, it’s just a bit time consuming. Can you imagine the feeling you get when you give up a couple of hours and you’ve saved somebody’s life?”
“When talking to the children at these schools, I like to say: has anyone here ever saved anyone’s life? There’s usually dead silence - and I usually ask if they’ve dived in the water and dragged anyone from the sea or whether they’ve saved anyone from a burning building. I then say that a life could be saved if they become a bone marrow donor.
There was someone who could save Marcus’ life, they definitely existed but, for whatever reason, they weren’t a donor.”