Circle of Friends Story
Circle of Friends Cancer Support Centre was founded by Jennifer Jones Hickey, and opened its doors for the first time at the Station House in Tipperary Town, on the 21st December 2013. Jennifer’s vision for a Cancer Support Centre in Tipperary Town, stemmed from her experiences in the Girls Club in Cork, while undergoing cancer treatment.
The Cancer Support Centre initially operated from three rented upstairs rooms, in the old Station House in Tipperary and offered a range of support services to people in the catchment area of West Tipperary, East Limerick and North Cork. Despite the limitations of the building where they operated, the Centre proved a welcome addition to services for those affected by cancer, and before long a voluntary Board of Trustees came together to manage the services on offer.
As the weeks turned to months, more and more marvellous volunteers came on board, to help deliver a wide range of workshops, group sessions and complementary therapies, while the Friday Coffee Mornings became a focal point for many of the earliest visitors. The need for all these services was reflected in the wonderful response of local businesses and individuals who organised fundraisers, donated money and sponsored materials, to get the Centre up and running. In a further effort to spread the word, the Board embarked on an ambitious Outreach Programme, promoting the Centre and the services it offered, to supportive gatherings in all the local towns and villages.
Conscious of the need to develop its services, the Board set about finding a permanent home for the cancer support centre. Before long, Circle of Friends was offered a 99 year lease on a site in Knockanrawley. Plans began to take shape for the construction of a purpose built cancer support centre. Support from the National Lottery was complemented by the incredible good will of individuals and businesses in the locality, who raised hundreds of thousands of euro, for this worthwhile project.
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The weekly Monday night Board Meetings at 7pm had long, wide-ranging agendas: applications to private and public sources of funding had to be completed, requiring reams of detail and back-up evidence and documentation; attendance at fund-raisers, sometimes 3 or 4 in the one week, had to be accommodated. Planned fact-finding trips to view modern Cancer Support Centres at Portlaoise, Thurles, Clonmel and Waterford were made and informed briefs to choose an architect and a builder were drawn- up.
In January 2017, a deputation from Circle of Friends met with Health Minister, Simon Harris, in Government Buildings, and later that year the Minister visited the Station House, meeting with Board members, volunteers and service users. 2018 saw massive strides in our building work and the shape of our new centre finally emerged. Public and private funding was successfully sought and generously offered and by June 2019 all was completed.
The longest day of the year was also the best day of the year for Circle of Friends. Minister Simon Harris officially opened our beautiful, modern, Cancer Support Centre on June 21st., 2019. In his inspiring speech, he made special reference to our late Board member, Sarah Gleeson, informing all present that he had a cheque for 150,000 euro for Circle of Friends, clearing our debt and fulfilling his promise to Sarah.
The Board, once the building was completed, turned its attention to improving our services and a Co-ordinator of Services was duly appointed. Kay Hogan’s experience and expertise have been a major asset and in conjunction with the Board she’s been assiduously preparing for the future, when services resume post Covid-19.
Today, Circle of Friends Cancer Support Centre is a thriving community of individuals who are affected by cancer in some way. Our volunteer Board of Management meet every two weeks, and continues to lead the centre forward, while engaging with the various agencies in the charity and health sectors. Our wonderful staff and volunteers ensure that everything runs smoothly in the Centre and that all our visitors are met by a friendly face and a welcoming smile. Now that our beautiful garden and pavilion are completed, our service users can experience the therapeutic benefits of plants and nature in a perfect setting.