Becoming a legal entity: 1981-1987
Julian and Sadie Cutland were the two key people who remained active with developing the fledgling organisation for the next few years, working on two fronts.
On the legal side, they met with the Department of Social Welfare, as well as the NCA, which was of the view that there should only be one organisation with a focus on cancer. The NCA invited CHOC to become a parent organisation under their umbrella, similar to the arrangement between the Candlelighter’s Group and the American Cancer Society in the US. This would have meant CHOC could no longer support haematology patients in addition to cancer patients since blood disorders were out of the NCA remit.
The Cutlands did not find this acceptable and continued the process of writing a new constitution for CHOC, then known as The Parents Association of the Childrens Haematology Oncology Clinics. The constitution was approved in a meeting of parents in Ward 294 in around 1986. The next step was to apply for a fundraising number, which was a necessary requirement to solicit money from the public. This led to the NCA lodging a formal objection, which they were entitled to, and the process was stalled for some time.
Then, through a serendipitous connection – one parent had a contact in the Nationalist Party – the application found its way onto the desk of the relevant minister, who had it approved. Now being a legal entity, CHOC could raise funds in 17 magisterial districts, mostly in the Witwatersrand area.
Meanwhile, Sadie had gone back to work as a night nurse in the Johannesburg Hospital in 1981 and then joined the team in Ward 294 in 1985. Working night duty she became aware of the difficulties parents were having. In the early hours one morning a mother was sitting on an uncomfortable plastic chair nursing a baby with severe juvenile leukaemia. So the first donation of R79 was used to buy a rocking chair for nursing mothers. A bank account was opened in the name of Mothers Care Group, Johannesburg Hospital, and this is still in use today but under a different name.
Fundraising events included sales of cakes, craft and jumble. This motivated other parents to get involved because they could see how the proceeds were improving the ward. “Everything was very simply based on identifying needs and then finding a way to raise money to fulfil those needs,” says Sadie. Being on the ground she was able to identify needs and then provide motivation for more people to contribute and this became a trend throughout the years that shaped the development of CHOC. It was largely due to her efforts that the support of parents grew and the improvement of facilities in the wards continued to develop.