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Making a difference for Rotherham cancer patients: Darren and Gail Baker’s Weston Park Cancer Charity story

“We want patients to benefit directly; the Rotherham transport service will help achieve that.”

Making a tangible difference and continuing John's legacy

Making a tangible difference for people facing cancer across the region matters most for Weston Park Cancer Charity patrons, Darren and Gail Baker. And by providing vital backing for the charity’s Rotherham transport service, that is exactly what they have helped to do.

It’s almost 18 years since Darren’s father, John, was diagnosed with stomach cancer – a diagnosis which came as a complete shock to the family.

John passed away very suddenly, just two months later; Darren is proud to have continued his father’s legacy after his shock passing.

“He’d be proud to see the legacy that’s been created,” said Darren.

“We want to raise money for things which make a direct difference for patients. By supporting people going through cancer – whether that’s by providing transport or providing other support services – you see the impact it has.

“Everything we’ve raised has always been to make someone’s life better who’s going through treatment, and with the minibus you can make that direct impact.”

Supporting Rotherham cancer patients

Over the years, they have raised hundreds of thousands of pounds for Weston Park Cancer Charity. Their support has also recently enabled the charity to set up a Rotherham branch of its free transport service, from Rotherham United’s AESSEAL New York Stadium to Sheffield Teaching Hospitals.

The service provides transport for anyone living in Rotherham who needs cancer treatment in Sheffield. It’s free, safe, and runs twice a day, Monday to Friday. It has been made possible by Darren, Gail, and a group of local businesses who teamed up to do something wonderful for people facing cancer in Rotherham.

Teaming up to support Weston Park Cancer Charity

JB Doors – the business founded by Darren’s father John in 1984 – were recently joined by Green Piling Ltd, Ron Hull Group, MIS Group, Jenkinson & Co, Complete Shutter Services Ltd to fund the purchase of Weston Park Cancer Charity’s Rotherham minibus.

Their support, as a group, is about changing the lives of people facing cancer in our region.

“Everybody you speak to has had some connection with Weston Park,” says Darren.

“Very few people you come across haven’t - that’s why it’s so close to people’s hearts. Family members, friends, they’ve all had a connection.

“Supporting charities including Weston Park Cancer Charity over the years fills me with pride, without doubt. It’s become part of our life – we’ve fundraised for so long now that it just becomes part of our normal life.”

Gail adds: “We’re so honoured to be patrons of Weston Park Cancer Charity.

“Whenever we meet somebody, it’s the first thing we talk about. And we do it because we want to do it – we feel it makes a difference.

“It’s great to do something good for local people and we’re extremely excited to see how the Rotherham transport service grows and develops now it’s been set up.”

Where Darren and Gail's fundraising journey started

Darren’s fundraising journey started with a surprise 40th birthday party, organised by Gail, not long after his dad passed away. Rather than provide gifts, Gail asked if guests could make a donation to Weston Park Cancer Charity, and the event raised £1,000.

After the event’s success, Darren and Gail decided to organise their very first charity ball, to support Weston Park. The event, held in 2006 at Hellaby Hall in Rotherham, sold out in less than a day – and raised more than £24,000 for the charity.

Darren recalls the day he walked into the charity’s office on Whitham Road to deliver a cheque.

“Back then, it was my first time fundraising properly, so my first introduction formally to the charity was to present a cheque for £24,600,” said Darren.

“I just walked in and Cat (now the Charity’s Deputy CEO) was there. She was amazed and said ‘wow, how did you do that?’”

Darren and Gail’s fundraising then grew and grew, to the point that they regularly raised tens of thousands of pounds for Weston Park Cancer Charity and other local causes.

The couple’s next charity ball is due to take place in March 2023, and will feature a tribute to a very close friend, Steve Smith MBE – the host of the Bakers’ Charity Ball countless times – who sadly passed away following his own cancer battle, in 2021.

Cat Rhone, Deputy CEO at Weston Park Cancer Charity, said: “I still recall the first time I met Darren and Gail, when they came in to present us with a cheque for more than £24,000.

“More than 16 years on, it’s remarkable to see the difference which Darren and Gail have made for local people. They’ve helped us fund upgrades in the hospital, they’ve supported young cancer patients through treatment, they’ve provided vital backing for our transport service and so much more.

“One in two people are diagnosed with cancer in their lifetime, but with supporters like Darren and Gail by our side, we can do so much more for anyone in our region who is faced with a diagnosis.”