Obituary: Jim McDonald

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The Independent Culture
WHEN JAMES McDonald was told on his 21st birthday that he had stomach cancer and only eight weeks to live, his father, Jim, refused to accept defeat. Shortly afterwards - some five years ago - father and son jointly founded the James McDonald Cancer Trust, an organisation that today provides practical support for cancer sufferers and vital funds for research.

This wasn't Jim McDonald's first foray into fund-raising and charity work. Two decades earlier the retired printing engineer and his wife, Jo, established Cot Death Research and Support for Bereaved Parents, following the death of a close friend's child. Together they secured more than a million pounds for pioneering work on cot deaths, also known as Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (Sids). Thanks to the work McDonald helped to fund, an estimated 1,000 children per year are now alive who might otherwise have died.

Born in Gravesend, Kent, in 1932, McDonald had a successful, if unremarkable, life in the printing industry until he took early retirement some 20 years ago. From then on he threw himself into supporting first cot-death research and latterly cancer research.

His enthusiasm saw him cajoling young and old into taking part in, and raising money for, sponsored bike rides, swims and marathons. He amassed a wealth of knowledge and experience on encouraging mass participation and maximising publicity. His approach was to organise many small events to which all could contribute rather than exclusive, high-value events.

Many of the funds he raised went to supplying hospitals across the country with breathing monitors for new-born babies. Other monies financed the pioneering paediatric work of Professor David Southall at Keele University and Dr Paul Johnson at the John Radcliffe Hospital, Oxford. By supporting the work of Professor Peter Fleming at St Michael's Hospital, Bristol, McDonald's charity work funded the first stages of the Back To Sleep campaign which, among other things, encouraged parents to lay their babies face up when in bed and subsequently greatly reduced infant mortality rates.

McDonald supported the James McDonald Cancer Trust with the same zeal, and oversaw its establishment as a registered charity. Valuable funds have been provided for the Oncology Unit at the Bristol Royal Infirmary. The trust also provides holiday homes for cancer patients, counselling, support groups, information on complementary therapies, a programme of education about cancer, and a telephone helpline.

Tim Bullamore

James McDonald, printing engineer and charity fund-raiser: born Gravesend, Kent 14 February 1932; married 1969 Jo Andrews (one son); died Weston- super-Mare, Somerset 1 November 1999.

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