The Importance of Newcastle's Daft as a Brush Cancer Patient Care Charity and How We're Supporting Them
Living North’s chosen charity for this year’s Christmas Fair is Gosforth-based Daft As a Brush Cancer Patient Care. We’re delighted to help raise money for this charity, which helps transport cancer patients to and from hospital, free of charge
‘Daft As a Brush has grown from zero to 60,000 patient journeys per year [figures for 2020], so it’s getting bigger by the day,’ Brian says, reflecting on more than a decade’s work. To date the charity has a fleet of more than 40 ambulances and more than 400 volunteers, and the team have recently taken a delivery of another 20 ambulances.
‘[Our volunteers are] unbelievable,’ Brian adds. ‘The thing I didn’t appreciate when we went full time with the charity is the power of our volunteers. They are so passionate about providing this service for cancer patients. I’ve often said you couldn’t pay people to work as hard as the volunteers do for free. Of course, that rubs off on the patients. They love the service that’s provided by the crews in the ambulances.’
Even in the pandemic, the volunteers rose to the challenge. ‘We had to work even harder because we had to reduce the amount of patients that travel in an ambulance to one for contact, which meant we made a lot more journeys than we would normally,’ Brian explains. ‘The other thing that’s very heartening is that the hospital told us they couldn’t operate without our service.’
The thing I didn’t appreciate when we went full time with the charity is the power of our volunteers. They are so passionate about providing this service for cancer patients. I’ve often said you couldn’t pay people to work as hard as the volunteers do for free'
It’s no wonder that Brian receives so much praise for the charity’s work. ‘Total strangers come up to you and thank you,’ he says. ‘I don’t know these people but it’s very moving when strangers to come up to you, thank you and shake your hand.’
The charity’s next step is to take what they do regionally, nationwide. ‘I’ve been visiting various cancer centres to see what their response would be, and they’ve all asked “when we can start”,’ Brian adds. ‘People have said it won’t work nationwide because we don’t have Geordies everywhere but it’s about the spirit that Geordies have. People all over Great Britain are so willing to do what we do locally.’
Daft As a Brush has also ordered more ambulances to be delivered over the next three years and the team are hoping to raise enough money to purchase their 100th ambulance from ticket sales for their Last Night of the Proms concert on 15th October. ‘That’s going to help us tremendously,’ Brian says. ‘Of course, when electric ambulances are available, we’ll begin to take those onboard immediately. I feel very passionate about the fact that we should be as green as possible in everything we do. Just watch this space.’
At this year’s Christmas Fair, you can chat with members of the team to gain an even better appreciation of their hands-on staff and drivers, and find out how to support the charity. ‘This isn’t just about Brian Burnie. It’s about the team,’ Brian says. ‘Without the team, this wouldn’t have worked – whether that’s team members who are volunteers, or those who are based in the office. We’ve received amazing support to make sure the team works efficiently.
‘Anybody knows somebody who’ve been helped by Daft As a Brush. It’s a fantastic name because everyone remembers it but the important words in our name aren’t Daft As a Brush, they’re Cancer Patient Care. It’s all about the patient. They’re the most important person in that team effort. Even Living North have always been a part of that team. The team is anybody who helps us and supports us to keep us going.’