CLIC Sargent, the UK’s leading cancer support charity for young cancer patients, is celebrating ten years of its award-winning participation service. The service puts children, young people and parent’s voices at the heart of the charity’s service delivery and development, shaping and improving its UK-wide support services.

The charity will be marking the achievement with a dedicated ‘Participation Week’, kicking off with a face to face children and parent’s group on November 24 and ending with a young person’s group meeting on November 30. Throughout the week, CLIC Sargent will run staff engagement sessions and share stories of participation over the years.

The service, which has been awarded the gold standard Hear by Right award from the National Youth Agency twice, was launched in 2008 with the appointment of CLIC Sargent’s first User Participation Manager to oversee, develop and implement opportunities for children, young people and parents.

In the years that followed, key milestones include the establishment of children, young people and parents advisory groups, the creation and development of the charity’s Shout Out! magazine for seven to 13-year-olds, Facebook groups for young people and parents, the appointment of trustees with a lived experience of cancer, and including young people and parents in staff inductions and on recruitment panels.

Katherine Mills, 23, joined CLIC Sargent’s Young Person’s Reference Group (YPRG) after she was diagnosed with terminal cancer last year. The group, made up of young people aged 16-25+, meets every two months, providing invaluable peer-to-peer support with those who have had similar experiences.

The group feeds back on various projects from across the charity, help to shape policy and awareness campaigns and give invaluable insight into what it’s like to be a young person diagnosed with cancer.

Katherine said: “Last year I was unwell, isolated, and unsure of my place in the world. Everything I had done before was now pointless, and my goals were now impossible. What made it unbearable was the feeling that I could no longer contribute anything worthwhile.

“Charlotte, my CLIC Sargent Social Worker suggested YPRG, and it’s by no means an exaggeration to say that joining YPRG has changed my life.

“For the first time since my diagnosis, I felt like my voice mattered. I was speaking with my peers about things that are important to us, and in sharing our opinions we were helping everyone. For the first time since my diagnosis, I know the path my life should take. YPRG has given me something priceless: YPRG has given me a purpose.”

Tim Sadler became involved in CLIC Sargent’s participation service after he was supported by the charity when his son Michael was diagnosed with cancer just before his third birthday in April 2014.

This year, Tim spoke about his experiences in parliament on behalf of CLIC Sargent and he also stars in the charity’s ‘Kid Santa’ Christmas campaign. After speaking to his CLIC Sargent Social Worker about the need for dads to have an outlet to speak about their feelings, Tim helped to establish the ‘Mind the Chaps’ Facebook group; a space for dads to connect with other dads whose children have been diagnosed with cancer.

Tim said: “When I came up with the idea for the dads Facebook group my social worker Janet put me in touch with the participation team. She understood the need straight away and that’s what’s brilliant about her; she really listens and if she hears a good idea she’ll help you to put the wheels in motion and get it off the ground. I didn’t cope particularly well at times, which is a problem with many men. That’s why I decided to get involved with CLIC Sargent and wanted to push forward the Mind the Chaps group to help others.

“Since I’ve been in touch with CLIC Sargent’s participation team I’ve had so many brilliant opportunities. I’ve been able to interview new staff members and help to develop the charity’s digital strategy, plus star in this year’s Christmas campaign. I’m not an actor so this is something I never thought I’d be able to do!

“One of the things CLIC Sargent is really good at is offering us loads of opportunities to turn a hideous negative into a positive. After your child’s treatment finishes you really do want to find a way to give back to charities that were there for you at your worst time and being involved in activities with CLIC Sargent is a perfect way.”

For more information or to find out how you can get involved email participation@clicsargent.org.uk