Cafe team supporting terminally ill mum at Race for Life

A terminally ill mum-of-three’s sister, sister-in-law and friends, who work at one of Middlesbrough’s best-known cafés, are joining her for next week’s Race for Life in Stewart Park.

Forty-three-year old nurse Donna Duffield – who has just become a grandmother – is being treated at the James Cook Hospital where she works.

Donna was diagnosed with skin cancer before the pandemic and, although that went away, the disease returned and spread to other parts of her body.

Despite that she is determined to complete the 5K course and will be supported by her family and a team of five from Jean’s Kitchen in the Dundas Indoor Market: 69-year-old owner Jean Hall, manager Louise Matthews, colleague Kay Watson, Donna’s sister-in-law Nicola Philpott and sister Rachel Andrews who lives three doors away from her in Eston.

“She’s a fighter,” said mum-of-two Rachel, 35, who has worked at the café since 2008.  “She wants to raise money and do the race to prove that she can. We’ll take her wheelchair – just in case – but she said she’s not getting in it.”

The Jean’s Kitchen runners hope to raise enough money to be able to donate to race organiser Cancer Research as well as the Chemotherapy Day Unit at James Cook where Donna has received her treatment.

“As soon as they heard Donna was doing it, they all wanted to take part – even Jean, who doesn’t run,” said café manager Louise, a veteran of two London Marathons and six Great North Runs.

The forty-five-year-old from Guisborough has worked at Jean’s Kitchen since she was 16 and the staff of seven have a combined service of almost 150 years.  They all know Donna and she has supported their charitable work over the years.

“It’s so nice to give something back to her because she has been involved in a lot of my fund-raising,” said Louise. “It’s going to be a combination of running, walking and pushing Donna in her wheelchair. We just want to be there with her.”

Indoor Market Manager David Harris said: “This is typical of Jean, Louise and the whole of the café team.  They do so much to help their local community, whether it’s somebody close to them like Donna or their loyal customers.”

That includes hosting monthly coffee mornings for Middlesbrough’s Deaf Empowering Unit (DEF) and the newly-launched Knit & Natter group every Monday morning.

Jean’s Kitchen staff also take out regular customers for their birthdays, support them at funerals and during COVID – when the café was closed – cooked meals in their own kitchens and delivered them to their homes. Louise even did one customer’s washing because his local laundrette was shut.

Race for Life donations can be made at the café or through a Just Giving page