Charity award for Colchester’s Toby Freeman, founder of the Robin Cancer Trust
- Credit: Archant
A health campaigner from north Essex who founded a charity in memory of his late brother has been recognised with a national honour.
Toby Freeman, from Wivenhoe, has been given a British Citizen Award for his services to healthcare, through his work with the Robin Cancer Trust.
Toby’s brother Robin died in December 2011, aged 24, having been diagnosed with germ cell cancer in January of the same year.
Upon diagnosis, his family was struck by the lack of public information about germ cell cancers, which include testicular and ovarian cancers. They set out to raise awareness, specifically for 16-35-year-olds and particularly around the signs and symptoms – as both forms of cancer are more than 90% curable if detected early.
Toby, now 28, set up the Robin Cancer Trust in March 2012 and has worked tirelessly for it ever since.
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His citation says he has led the charity with “unwavering commitment”, and he is praised for his “determination, ambition, vision and sheer hard work”.
Toby said: “The charity was born out of grief and it grew organically.
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“We wanted to do something in Robin’s name but also wanted to help others who found themselves in the same situation. The charity is about Rob, but also about all of the other people who are affected.
“You don’t often have time to reflect as things move at such a speed, but when we had given out over 23,000 temporary tattoos and stickers at the charity’s first-ever festival and we stood there listening to a band playing one of Rob’s favourite songs, you start to realise what you’ve achieved.
“Rob would’ve been incredibly proud of what we’ve done but we do have a bit of a running joke in the family because he was a handsome chap but was very shy. He hated being the centre of attention so while he would’ve loved the charity, he would’ve hated the attention he’s getting.
“Receiving this award is very humbling and I’m very honoured to be picking it up, but I don’t do what I do for recognition. I’m just the face of the charity so it’s really thanks to all of our friends, family and all the amazing supporters who help the charity to grow.”
Toby will be honoured at the Palace of Westminster on January 25.
He was nominated for a BCA by friend and charity trustee Joanna Harwood, who said: “In my view, to be able to take the worst thing imaginable that could happen to you in losing the person most dear to you and convert that into a commitment to help other people is exceptional by any standard. Toby’s commitment to the charity, and vision for its future, always shines bright.”
The British Citizen Awards (BCAs) were launched in January 2015 to recognise exceptional individuals who work tirelessly and selflessly to make a positive impact on society. They are awarded twice annually, and recognise ‘everyday’ people whose achievements may otherwise be overlooked.