20 October 2015
May Gilchrist, from Keith, was one of just three people across the world to reach the finals of the Volunteer of the Year in the Global Fundraising Awards. The 71-year-old grandmother was nominated for the award after raising more than £280,000 for Macmillan Cancer Support over 20 years. She has also been entered for the People’s Choice Award which is based on the number of votes received by the public.
May started fundraising for Macmillan after her first husband Ian died of cancer in 1993. May said: 'I was in a very dark place for a while but as I started to pick up the pieces and begin reinvesting in life, I decided I wanted to do something in Ian’s memory. But that something had to be alive, involve people and be enjoyable. Macmillan had helped Ian at the end of his life and they had also been there for me afterwards when I was struggling.'
She enlisted the help of two of her hill walking friends, Jim Gilchrist and Kenny Ferguson, and together they came up with the idea of holding a Walk across Scotland event from Ullapool to Bonar Bridge – the shortest route from the west to east coast of Scotland.
The first 36-mile Walk Across Scotland – also known as the Macmillan Coast-to-Coast event - was held in 1996 and raised a massive £8,000.
'People said: ‘Do it again’ and here we are, 20 years later, having raised over £280,000 for Macmillan Cancer Support. Hopefully that money has meant the charity is well on target to make certain that no one faces cancer alone. As well as walking, people can choose to ride or cycle the route and May says the success of the event has been down to the support given to participants en-route. The Walk Across Scotland provides a unique opportunity for people to be supported as they traverse the route and allows them to experience walking, cycling or riding their horse in the remotest part of Scotland - something they could not do on their own. Everyone taking part enjoys the whole idea of being out there, all together, with the one purpose – raising funds. There is camaraderie amongst the participants which keeps spirits up. Each year there are the stalwarts returning again and again to experience the challenge. Then there are newcomers, brought by friends who have come home after the event and raved about the brilliant weekend.'
In addition to fundraising for Macmillan, former head teacher May works part time as a tutor of Counselling Skills at Aberdeen University.
May, who together with her partner Robert has 13 grandchildren, said she was very touched and honoured to have been nominated for the award by Macmillan Cancer Support. 'I have literally received hundreds of emails congratulating me on the nomination and saying really nice things like 'well deserved.'
'However I am very aware that I do not do the organising of this event solely on my own. I am the catalyst but I have a superb support group around me - some having been with me since the very first year.'
Macmillan Fundraising Manager for North Scotland Christina Keith, who nominated May for the award, said: 'May is an incredible lady, an inspiration to us all and we can’t thank her enough for all she has done and continues to do to help people affected by cancer.
More information about the Walk Across Scotland event can be found here: http://macmillan-coast-to-coast.org.uk/