Wallsend widow Chris Knighton has today (Wednesday, February 27, 2008) launched a new fund to enable families to raise money in the name of a loved one who has been affected by mesothelioma.

The Mick Knighton Mesothelioma Research Fund’s Snowdrop Fund will allow families across the UK to set up a tribute fund to raise cash for important research into the disease.

Chris, who founded the Mick Knighton Mesothelioma Research Fund (MKMRF) after her husband Mick died from the disease in 2001. Mesothelioma is a cancer of the lining of the lung caused by exposure to asbestos.

Since MKMRF was launched in 2002 the charity has gone on to raise £330,000 for research into the disease, which has no cure.

Snowdrop fund will create a lasting legacy for those lost to mesothelioma

Chris said the Snowdrop Fund will allow people to create a lasting legacy for their loved ones who have been lost to mesothelioma.

All the money raised will be collected into the MKMRF pot and will be used to fund further research into the disease.

All Snowdrop Funds will be given the opportunity to have their own web space on the MKMRF website and they will be given fundraising support from the charity.

Chris said: “I wanted to give other people the opportunity to raise money in memory of a loved one who has died from mesothelioma. This will be a lasting legacy which will help make a difference for those diagnosed with this disease in the future.

“By pooling the new Snow Drop Funds and the monies raised by the Mick Knighton Mesothelioma Research Fund we will be able to make a real impact on research into the disease. There is no government funding available for mesothelioma research so every penny we raise counts.

“I am excited to be here launching these new funds today. When I first set up to raise £100,000 in Mick’s name I never would have believed that we could achieve so much. It is an honour to be able to give other people the same opportunity.”

She added: “The reason we chose the snowdrop is it works hard through the depths of despair in the winter and come the spring it pushes through the ground as a beautiful flower - giving hope and promise to everyone who sees it.

“We hope that these funds will give hope and promise to all who take part.”

Father and Brother both died from Mesothelioma

Carole Orton from Clavering, near Hartlepool has launched the first Snow Drop Fund in memory of her dad and brother who both died from mesothelioma.

The new fund called the Harry and Stephen Gray Snow Drop Memorial Fund has already raised more £7,000.

Carole’s dad died in November 2002, aged 67, after a six-month battle against mesothelioma, a cancer of the lining of the lungs caused by exposure to asbestos.

The granddad of 15 became ill after being exposed to asbestos fibres throughout his working life as a lagger.

He first started the work at 14 and worked as a contractor lagging power stations and ships with asbestos.

Carole’s brother Stephen died last year. He was just 44, and left behind a son, Harry, aged five and a daughter, Kate, just 23 months-old.

Stephen also worked as a lagger.

Carole said being able to create a Snow Drop Fund in their names has given her a drive to raise as much money as possible for research into mesothelioma.

She said: “My brother was so young when he was first diagnosed with mesothelioma. We knew what the disease was as my dad had died just a few years before but we were shocked to find out there was no cure and there was no way to save Stephen.

“When I found out there was no government funding for mesothelioma research I vowed to raise money in order to help people in the future. The Mick Knighton Mesothelioma Research Fund and the Snow Drop Funds means that our money can now be put to ‘real’ use.”

Carole added: “Being part of a larger charity means we can concentrate on the fundraising instead of worrying about the accounts, gaining charity status and dealing with paperwork. We can allow the Mick Knighton Mesothelioma Research Fund to shoulder the red tape while we concentrate on what is important to us.

“It is a pleasure to be the first Snow Drop Fund.”

Thousands of people exposed to asbestos on the banks of the River Tyne

As part of a launch for the Snow Drop Memorial Fund North Tyneside Council and Gateshead Council have agreed to plant 5,000 snowdrops each on either side of the banks of the River Tyne, where thousands of people have been exposed to asbestos.

John Rogan, neighbourhood services officer at the North Tyneside Council said: “North Tyneside Council are delighted to be able to support such a worthwhile cause. The snowdrops will be a lasting memory to the many on North Tyneside who have tragically lost their lives to this terrible disease.”

MKMRF has also created white ribbons as a sign of hope and promise to support the new fund. These are available for £1 from Chris Knighton on 0191 263 7386.

Anyone who has been affected by mesothelioma can set up a Snow Drop Fund in memory of a special person.

For more information contact Chris Knighton on 0191 263 7386.