Golfer Darren Clarke has continued to keep the memory of the mother of his two sons alive through his charitable foundation with a massive donation to a cancer research centre.
The Dungannon-born sportsman, who married model agency boss Alison Campbell earlier this year, lost his first wife Heather (below) to breast cancer in August 2006, when she was just 39.
He gifted £80,000 to Queen’s University Belfast’s Centre for Cancer Research and Cell Biology (CCRCB) yesterday.
The 2011 Open winner set up the Darren Clarke Foundation in 2002 to further the development of junior golf in Ireland, but following Heather’s death, it has also been raising money for breast cancer awareness.
He has been a stalwart supporter of breast cancer research, donating to a number of local and national cancer charities.
Speaking of a cause close to his heart, he said: “I am delighted to support the Centre For Cancer Research at Queen’s through my foundation and I am hopeful this is the start of long-term relationship.”
Dr David Waugh, acting director of the CCRCB, thanked the golfing star for the generous gift.
He said: “More women in Northern Ireland are surviving breast cancer than ever before thanks to earlier detection and better treatments.
“But there is so much more to be done to increase our impact on this disease.
“This generous gift from the Darren Clarke Foundation will enable us to continue our research into aggressive forms of breast cancer and accelerate the pace and quality of cancer research worldwide.”
The CCRCB is a key part of the Comprehensive Cancer Services (CCS) programme which has helped the number of people surviving the disease to rise significantly year on year in Northern Ireland.
Queen’s was awarded a Diamond Jubilee Queen’s Anniversary Prize earlier this year for its leadership of the CCS, in partnership with the Department of Health, health trusts and medical research industry.
Dr Waugh added: “Survival rates for cancer in Northern Ireland are now among the UK’s best.
“Some survivors are alive and well a significant number of years after the kind of cancer that not so long ago would have taken them from us.”
In November 2007, the £25m Centre for Cancer Research and Cell Biology was opened at Queen’s University by former US Senator George Mitchell. Researchers have helped deliver new methods for preventing, diagnosing and treating cancer. With the Cancer Centre at Belfast City Hospital, it makes Northern Ireland one of Europe’s leaders in the fight against cancer.