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'Bucket List' Stephen Sutton's £5m legacy: Teenager raises enough money for five new cancer wards

When teenager Stephen Sutton was first told his cancer was incurable, he refused to stop living life to the full, wrote a bucket list, and set a fundraising target of £10,000 for the Teenage Cancer Trust.

By the end of his short but extraordinary life, he had raised more than £3m.

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Since Stephen’s death earlier this year, that total has risen to almost £5m, enough to fund an massive legacy which has been set out in detailed plans by the Teenage Cancer Trust today.

As well as millions in funding for new and refurbished teenage cancer units at seven NHS hospitals in England and Scotland, and the foundation of 50 Stephen Sutton Scholarships to train specialist cancer nurses, the money will pay for 1,500 teenage cancer patients to attend special events to learn, share experiences and make friends with others in their situation.

The weekend events – dubbed Find Your Sense of Tumour – are held by the Trust annually. Stephen said that attending the event had been hugely influential to the way he viewed his own cancer. A funding boost of £200,000 will for the first time allow the charity to pay transport costs for 300 teenagers to attend the event every year for the next five years.

Another £500,000 will go towards developing a new online resource for young people, inspired by the extraordinary spread of Stephen’s campaign via Twitter and Facebook. The digital platform will provide a shortcut for young people to access information about their condition, the support available to them and also help young cancer patients to connect with one another.

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Stephen was diagnosed with bowel cancer at the age of 15.

After being told the cancer was incurable in 2012, he drew up a list 46 “weird and wonderful” things he wanted to do before he died – and spent the next two years achieving the vast majority of them, including playing the drums in front of a crowd of 90,000 at the 2013 Champions League final at Wembley, completing a skydive, and raising £10,000 for charity. So far his total fundraising is 500 times that amount.

His campaign reached a huge new audience after he posted what he called “a final Thumbs Up” on Facebook on 22 April this year, after his deteriorating condition saw him rushed to hospital. The post was shared by 76,000 people and his fundraising target soon tipped over the £1m mark.

He wrote: “I've done well to blag things as well as I have up till now, but unfortunately I think this is just one hurdle too far.” In his final few weeks, he continued to message supporters via social media, was visited at Birmingham’s Queen Elizabeth Hospital by David Cameron, and was made an MBE for his fundraising efforts.

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He died peacefully in his bed on 14 May, at the age of 19.

Siobhan Dunn, the chief executive of the Teenage Cancer Trust, said the money Stephen had raised would allow the charity to reach “huge milestones” in the care of young people with cancer.

“Stephen trusted us to spend the money well and to ‘keep doing what we do’ and this is reflected in our plans,” she said. “However, Stephen has also allowed us to be more ambitious. Stephen’s gift to a charity of our size is more than money – the awareness raised of cancer in young people and new supporters inspired by Stephen will be essential if we are to help every young person with cancer who needs us.”

Stephen’s legacy: how the money will be spent

£2.9m invested in specialist teenage cancer units, including two brand new units at NHS hospitals in Nottingham and Oxford; major refurbishments to cancer units at University College Hospital and Weston Park in Sheffield; and three units in newly built hospitals in Liverpool, Edinburgh and Glasgow, which will replace those in hospitals planned for closure.

£1.2m to train future cancer nurses and youth support workers, including 50 Stephen Sutton Scholarships for postgraduate qualifications in teenage and young adult cancer care at Coventry University.

£500,000 towards setting up new digital information services for teenage and young adult cancer patients.

£200,000 to help patients attend Find Your Sense of Tumour events

Independent News Service