Sarah Darlington

Long term Christie supporter and well known Cheshire business woman Sarah Darlington has been awarded a British Empire Medal (BEM) in this year’s New Year’s Honours list.

Sarah, who lives near Nantwich with her husband Tim and two children, has been given the prestigious award for her services to charity. She is the founder member of the Nantwich Christie Hospital Support Group, which she set up with a group of local friends. She has been fundraising for The Christie charity for more than 25 years during which time the group has raised over £450,000 to date. Sarah was instrumental in setting up the group after her father Tom was successfully treated at The Christie, a specialist cancer centre in Manchester.

Sarah, aged 51, and her fundraising friends organise a multitude of successful events every year including balls, fashion shows, bingo and quiz nights. Over the last quarter of a century the group has raced horses and ferrets, hosted coffee mornings, wine tastings, shopping evenings and ladies’ lunches. Recently their support has helped The Christie invest £5.6 million for research facilities in the new proton beam therapy centre.

Mother of twins Jack and Mollie, Sarah said: “I am completely thrilled to receive a BEM. I was shaking when I found out and I have had to keep it a secret, which has been very hard. I never dreamt that I would receive recognition on this scale. I am a huge fan of the Royal family so this really is a dream come true for me.”

Despite the honour, Sarah remains modest about her fundraising achievements and is keen to stress she accepts the award on behalf of the entire support group she represents. She said: “I have been fundraising for The Christie for so long because they saved the life of both my dad and my husband Tim, but whatever I do for them, it is not as much as The Christie gave me. I just wish my dad was still alive to see this as he would be so proud, as will my mum when I tell her.”

Sarah will receive her honour at a presentation with the Lord Lieutenant of Cheshire, and COVID-19 restrictions dependent, will also receive an invitation to the Royal Garden Party at Buckingham Palace.

Sarah has also been instrumental in the growth of her family business, famous curd, jam and chutney makers Darlington and Daughters. The firm was originally established by her parents Tom and Marion in 1980, who set up the business after discovering the popularity of Marion’s homemade recipes. Sarah joined the business in 1987 and alongside her family has grown the firm from the family farm into a purpose-built facility in Crewe. The Mrs Darlington’s brand is now a household name; renowned for exceptional quality. Their products are sold the length and breadth of the UK as well as being exported to the four corners of the world. Despite this popularity and success, Sarah has never forgotten her roots and regularly donates baskets of her goodies to local schools and charities for their fundraising events.

As well as her considerable business achievements and charity efforts, Sarah is a respected and influential member of her local community. She has been involved in local politics and the farming community for many years and is keen supporter of her children’s schools.

Louise Hadley, director of fundraising for The Christie, said: “We’re thrilled to hear about Sarah’s award. She has supported The Christie for more than 25 years and is hugely deserving and her tireless work and commitment has benefited many cancer patients. The Christie charity has a great many supporters who fundraise and donate so generously, but Sarah’s achievement is remarkable – few have shown the same commitment, enthusiasm and dedication over such a sustained period.”

The Christie charity supports the work of The Christie NHS Foundation Trust providing enhanced services over and above what the NHS funds. This includes money for care and treatment, research, education and extra patient services. Gifts from the public make a huge difference to the care and treatment that The Christie is able to provide to patients and their families.

The Christie NHS Foundation Trust was the first specialist trust to be rated as ‘Outstanding’ twice (in 2016 and 2018) by the health regulator the Care Quality Commission (CQC). It referred to The Christie as ‘a leader in cancer care’ and ‘a pioneer in developing innovative solutions to cancer care.’ The CQC praised the Trust’s staff which it said ‘go the extra mile to meet the needs of patients and their families’ and that they were ‘exceptionally kind and caring.’ In 2017, the CQC rated The Christie as the best specialist trust in the country, and one of the top three trusts overall in England. 

You can also read how Sarah supports The Christie charity with a gift in her Will.