A Long Melford man who has dedicated over 30 years to raising money for a blood cancer charity has been awarded an MBE in the 2017 New Year’s Honours list.
Richard Delderfield has volunteered for Bloodwise since losing his teenage son, Paul, to leukaemia in 1985. He was awarded the MBE for services to the charity, which changed its name from Leukaemia & Lymphoma Research in 2015.
Mr Delderfield, 73, who is honorary president of the national charity, was a member of its Board of Trustees for over 20 years and served as its Vice Chairman between 2007 and 2013, as well as acting as chairman for a time.
He first started supporting the charity after the death of his 17-year-old son, having already lost his mother to the disease.
“My drive all along has been ‘can I find justification for my son’s death’,” he said. “I guess metaphorically he has sat on my shoulder for 30 years and I guess now I can.”
The former caterer was raised in Essex and as a teenager he lost his mother to leukaemia when she was just 42.
His son Paul was first diagnosed with acute myeloid leukaemia in October 1984. He had just started Sixth Form and was interested in pursuing a career in nature photography and film.
“After six treatments of chemotherapy, he was fine, but the disease returned very quickly,” said Mr Delderfield.
“After much persuasion, he was given the latest treatment available but lost his brave fight and passed away in August 1985. He was 17-years-old.
“You’ve got two options, to never hear anything about that horrible word again or to do what you can to make sure other people are not affected in that way.”
The couple first raised £6,500 for St Bartholomew’s Hospital, London, where their son was treated, before later that year seeing a volunteer out in the rain collecting for Leukaemia & Lymphoma Research.
Inspired by the conversation they had with the collector the pair then joined Sir Ian Botham on his first John O’Groats to Land’s End fundraising walk to beat childhood leukaemia and Mr Delderfield has now joined the former cricketer on every walk for the charity since 1992, later becoming the collections organiser for the walks.
He was also instrumental in setting up and organising many of the charity’s Bikeathon events, both locally and nationally, which have raised millions of pounds.
Through the charity Mr Delderfield has seen a variety of different fundraising activities take place, including the incredible success of the award-winning film The Calendar Girls and the more-recent musical adaptation that all came from a group of women creating a calendar to raise money for the charity.
“All they were trying to do was raise some money for a new Settee and it boomed,” said Mr Delderfield. “I know the girls very well, though I haven’t seen them naked yet.”
Through his many roles for the charity he has travelled across the country ‘to wherever needed’, hailing his wife for her constant support through all his endeavours.
The couple previously lived in Thorncombe in Dorset until 2013, before moving to Theobald’s Close in Long Melford so Angela could be closer to her sister.
The couple have a daughter and two grandchildren who live in Australia.
He was the chairman of the Yeovil & District voluntary Branch of Bloodwise for many years, while also being active on a number of fundraising committees and leading on projects in the village.
Although the application for the honour was put in by the charity’s former chief executive, it was supported and recommended by his former neighbours in Dorset.
After receiving the letter notifying him of the MBE on November 23, and having to keep quiet, not even telling family and friends, Mr Delderfield said: “I was very surprised. Only my wife knew, it’s going to be an exciting time.
“I am humbled, yet proud and honoured. I cannot think of a more fitting way to mark my 30 years of commitment to beating blood cancer.
“It has been a long road, always with the memories of our dear son Paul urging me onwards – after all these years I feel that his death was not in vain.”
Diana Jupp, acting chief executive of Bloodwise, said: “This award could not be more deserved. Richard has worked tirelessly for the charity over many years, helping to develop many of our flagship fundraising events.
“During this time, thanks to the research that these events have helped fund, the outlook for children diagnosed with leukaemia has been dramatically transformed.”
When his son died only around 20 per cent of child leukaemia sufferers would survive, however, that figure is now closer to 92 per cent and Mr Delderfield said his goal still remained the same, “to beat blood cancer”.
He admits this is a highly ambitious target, but equally as important is for patients to enjoy improved long term lifestyles.
Research is now looking into how different patients need different types of care, not just to beat the disease but to ensure a comfortable life afterwards.
For more information on leukaemia, the charity or to get involved in raising money visit bloodwise.org.uk.