The charitable work of University of Stirling student and sports scholar Cameron Main has been recognised by Prime Minister Theresa May at a celebratory Downing Street Burns Supper.
Sport and Exercise Science student Cameron was invited to London by Moray MP, Douglas Ross, in recognition of his and his family’s work through the Abbie’s Sparkle Foundation which was set up to honour Cameron’s younger sister, Abbie. Fifteen-year-old Abbie passed away on Christmas Day 2017, following a battle with a rare form of cancer known as sarcoma.
Before attending the Burns Supper event, guests enjoyed a tour of Parliament and 10 Downing Street. As well as the Prime Minister, politicians and business contacts, Cameron mixed with a host of famous fundraisers – including rugby hero Doddie Weir and television personality John Barrowman – who were all keen to show their support for the Foundation’s work.
Speaking of the visit, Cameron, who is part of the University’s high performance triathlon programme, said: “It was amazing. I met Douglas and went on a tour of the Houses of Parliament and met up with Berwickshire, Roxburgh & Selkirk MP John Lamont, who had brought Doddie Weir as his guest, so it was inspiring to speak to him about his experiences and charity work.
“It was incredible to see inside Downing Street and the grand staircase that has the portraits of all the former Prime Ministers – and to then meet Theresa May just seemed a bit surreal.
“But I managed to speak to her for about five minutes about the charity which she thought was fantastic.”
Having lived with sarcoma for over four years, Abbie wanted to start a charity to raise money for hospitals and, following her passing, the family set up the Abbie’s Sparkle Foundation to fulfil her wish. So far, it has raised more than £100,000 and offered grants and donations to nearly 100 children in its first year.
The charity raises funds through a variety of activities, ranging from coffee mornings to sponsored bike rides, to Cameron’s own extreme challenge of running up Ben Nevis five times in 15 hours.
Facing temperatures of -12C and 70mph winds, the 19-year-old from Elgin came up against nature at its most belligerent but faced the challenge head-on and only finished, reluctantly, after his fifth ascent.
Cameron said: “I wanted to do seven times in 24 hours, but my dad and his friends at the top said I had to stop because it was becoming too dangerous.
“I’d only been up Ben Nevis once and I wanted to do something a bit crazy and thought it would make a big statement. However, I want to go back and try and break the record, but will need to do it in summer to make sure the weather is a bit better.”
Despite the difficult conditions, Cameron’s efforts were not in vain as he raised more than £9000, reflecting the generosity and support the Foundation has attracted since its inception.
Cameron said: “We’ve been building up a range of supporters over the years and we’re now at a stage where we’ve raised enough money to start helping in the way we want.”
This help includes presents for ill children at Christmas time, through to all-expenses-paid trips and Cameron, as Chairman of the Foundation, has to find time to keep track of activity alongside his studies and triathlon commitments.
He said: “It can be difficult fitting it all in, and my mum sometimes has to get on at me, but whenever I have time between sport and studies I look to stay up-to-date with the charity work, social media and donations we make.
“And although I’m the Chairman of the Foundation, most of the work comes from my mum and dad and they probably don’t get as much recognition as they should. They obviously like me to be involved, but they do a massive amount of work whether that’s on social media, attending events or other behind-the-scenes stuff.”
Amongst the charity work, fundraising challenges and trips to Downing Street, it’s easy to forget Cameron is one of Scotland’s leading student triathletes and the past season demonstrated his resilience in testing times.
“Last year was actually my best year ever. I felt like Abbie was with me and I used her memory to push myself harder than ever before in training and races. I call her my secret training partner.
“I had lots of European Cup starts and three top-six finishes, as well as a third place at the British Champs and second at one of the new Super League events in Jersey. It was a very good year in terms of results and probably the most motivated I’d been during a summer which was surprising to a lot of people but Abbie was really pushing me on in my head which helped a lot.
“Over winter and Christmas, I had time with the family and a bit of a break, which was good, and I’m getting back into training now. Hopefully, come April, I’ll be able to push on again and get some good results – and possibly even a GB vest.”
As part of the University of Stirling’s high performance triathlon programme, Cameron receives a range of support, including coaching, competition expenses, athlete support services and academic flexibility, and has noted its development since first attending a summer training camp as a teenager.
He said: “I’ve been at Stirling for a while now, having come for summer training when I was younger, and the triathlon centre has always been really good.
“I love the social side of our group and the fact we are all pushing each other. I think the enjoyment factor and being part of a performance centre is, for me, the difference between being a standard triathlete and being the best triathlete you can be – and being part of the University programme has been massive for my development.
“And with Performance Triathlon Coach Andrew Woodroffe – now in place and a few new faces, I think it’s the best I’ve ever seen it and a really positive place to be.”
To find out more about the Abbie’s Sparkle Foundation or to make a donation, visit the Abbie’s Sparkle Foundation website or follow the Foundation on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.
What is Sarcoma?
Sarcomas are uncommon cancers that can affect any part of the body, on the inside or outside, including the muscle, bone, tendons, blood vessels and fatty tissues. There are around 100 different sub-types of sarcoma.
15 people are diagnosed with sarcoma every day in the UK. That’s about 5300 people a year.
To find out more about sarcoma and how to support vital research, visit the Sarcoma UK website.