CLIC founder Bob Woodward retires from charity Starfish after 40 years of helping sick children
CHILDREN’S charity founder and a shoulder to cry on for countless grieving families, Bob Woodward has started his retirement in style with a party in a very special venue.
Bob, who turned 80 on February 28, is stepping down from his official duties with Almondsbury-based Down’s Syndrome charity Starfish after a 40-year career inspired by the tragic loss of two of his sons.
A former builder, Bob’s life changed forever on February 21, 1974 when his eight-year-old son Robert was diagnosed with neuroblastoma, a disease he battle bravely for three years.
At the time, Bob and his wife Judy considered themselves lucky to live close just yards away from Frenchay Hospital but were so worried for other families traveling from across the South West to visit their sick children, they promptly began restoring an old bungalow in Frenchay and offered free accommodation at what became known as CLIC (Cancer and Leukemia in Children) Cottage.
In its first year, CLIC raised £3,000 and in 1981 it went international with Russian president Mikhail Gorbachev agreeing to preside over the charity.
Not content with his work for other families, Bob, whose son Hugh died of Down’s Syndrome at the age of four, took on running Starfish in 1997.
"Mine has been a very privileged position," he told the Gazette. "I came to it in very sad circumstances and travelled a road I would not have chosen to travel but nevertheless, it has been the most amazing road and I have met the most incredible people."
He added: "I have been with people at the most desperate time of their times but it has been a great privilege to give them pastoral care and help them through the experience."
In 2011, he was handed a Pride of Britain award for his services to charity. Bob, who has two other children, Rachel and James, and an eight-year-old granddaughter Laura, combined his 80th birthday with his farewell to the charity sector with a party for 113 guests at Nibley House in North Nibley on Saturday.
"On my son Robert’s better days during treatment he loved nothing more than to go to Nibley House and use the snooker room," said Bob. "And there we were on Saturday in that very room."
Among the guests were Meningitis UK founder Steve Dayman, CLIC nurses and volunteers, Starfish founders Charlie and Mary Dobson and Sister Frances Dominica, who established the world’s first children’s hospice in Oxford in 1982.
Congratulatory messages were received from Russia and the former Lord Mayor of Bristol, Peter Abrahams, gave a toast.
"It was magical," said Bob. "Some parts of it were a surprise and my family really did me proud."
Despite being diagnosed with incurable prostate cancer 10 years and having a knee replacement, Bob hopes to achieve his ultimate aim, to walk the length of the Cotswold Way, during retirement.
But he is not giving up charity work entirely, as he is still fundraising for a hydrotherapy pool for disabled children at Claremont School in Redland, Bristol and to save the Vassall Centre in Fishponds.