Empire Medals for cancer carers

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Peggy O'Brien (left) & Winnie Keating (right) with their British Empire Medals. Pic © Liam Deveney

Peggy O’Brien (left) & Winnie Keating (right) pose with their British Empire Medals. Pic © Liam Deveney

Two recipients of British Empire Medals for their services to a cancer support group they set up have described their experience as “mind-blowing.”

Peggy O’Brien and Winnie Keating founded the Lily Centre in 2000, a breast cancer support group, and were rewarded for their efforts over the last 15 years last Saturday at an event in Liverpool’s Adelphi Hotel.

It’s the latest in a series of awards for the charity which has previously won the Queen’s Award in 2010 and the Local Heroes Award in 2008.

Peggy, 65, told JMU Journalism: “The night was absolutely fabulous. It was very emotional when Winnie and I got up, everyone was cheering and clapping. It was completely mind-blowing.”

The pair set up the Lily Centre in 2000 to help those who have breast cancer after they both were diagnosed with the disease in the previous year.

“We knew how they feel. We wanted the centre to be like going to your friends for tea, a home from home and it’s exactly that,” Peggy said.

They first met when they both attended the same GP practice back in 1999 and decided to start a support group at the local health centre for two hours a week with five people attending the fist meeting. But within weeks, the number of attendees grew.

Eventually they were able to secure the donation of a flat on Silvester Street where the centre has gradually expanded into three flats through the years. The charity now has over 1,500 members, including four male supporters and provides support through a variety of ways, from counselling to reflexology.

The Lily Centre which was named after their eldest member, 99-year-old Lily Halligan, relies solely on donations as it receives no government funding.

Liverpool legend John Barnes donated £10,000 after appearing on television programme ‘All Star Mr and Mrs’ to the centre. Former Reds manager, Rafael Benitez also donated a substantial amount to the cause with his wife Montserrat being one of the service’s patrons.

About Dan Goulding, JMU Journalism