Colchester charity hero receives British Citizen Award for cancer youth awareness campaign

Matt Allwright, Toby Freeman and Pat Egan, of BCA sponsor Places for People, at the awards ceremony

Matt Allwright, Toby Freeman and Pat Egan, of BCA sponsor Places for People, at the awards ceremony on January 25. Picture: MARK HAKANSSON - Credit: Archant

Toby Freeman, 28 from Colchester, has been honoured with a British Citizen Award for his work raising awareness of cancer among young people after he lost his brother to the disease in 2011.

A charity hero from Colchester has been honoured with a British Citizen Award for his services to healthcare.

Toby Freeman, 28, began campaiging for cancer awareness among young people after he lost his 24-year-old brother, Robin, to the disease in 2011.

Toby founded the Robin Cancer Trust in March 2012 to encourage 16 to 35 year olds to recognise germ cell cancers, in particular testicular and ovarian varieties, after his family was struck by the lack of information available to the public on his brother’s diagnosis.

The Trust also aims to encourage young people to talk about their health and seek medical help if they have any concerns, in order to maximise early diagnoses.

The British Citizen Awards (BCAs), launched in January 2015, are awarded twice annually to exceptional ‘everyday’ people whose achievements may otherwise be overlooked. Toby was amongst 36 medallists honoured at a prestigious ceremony on January 25, at the Palace of Westminster. Each received a Medal of Honour, inscribed with the words ‘For the Good of the Country’. Medallists can also use the initials BCA after their name.

Speaking about his nomination, Toby said: “The charity idea was born out of grief really and it grew organically. 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.

Most Read

“You don’t often step back and 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.

“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.”

Pat Egan, from the BCA sponsor Places for People, said: “I was thrilled to present Toby with this award. His tireless efforts in raising support and awareness of testicular and ovarian cancer are vitally important in helping to save young people‘s lives. Toby’s dedication to this cause has no doubt had a considerable impact on many people across the UK. He thoroughly deserves this recognition.”

Toby was nominated for a BCA by friend and Robin Cancer Trust 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 conver 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.

“I really cannot think of anyone more deserving of recognition.”

Become a Supporter

This newspaper has been a central part of community life for many years. Our industry faces testing times, which is why we're asking for your support. Every contribution will help us continue to produce local journalism that makes a measurable difference to our community.

Become a Supporter