Lancashire Cricket has announced the club will unite with the newly-formed Bob Willis Fund and the Barry Kilby Prostate Cancer Appeal (BKCPA) to use the power of cricket to raise awareness of prostate cancer and men’s health issues.
The two charities and the Lancashire Cricket Foundation will join forces this Father’s Day (June 20), the final day of the internationally recognised Men's Health Week, to offer up to 350 prostate-specific antigen (PSA) tests to spectators attending the Vitality Blast (T20) fixture between Lancashire and Notts Outlaws at Emirates Old Trafford.
Ticket holders for the match will be given the opportunity to book a PSA test online, at a time slot of their choice, that will be administered at the stadium on match day. Collections will also be taken place for the charities on the day and online in the building-up to the match, with all proceeds being split equally between the three organisations.
The testing will be facilitated by the Barry Kilby Prostate Cancer Appeal – founded in 2014 by the former chairman of Burnley FC, after a diagnosis in 2011 – and was arranged by Lancashire's Director of Cricket Paul Allott, one of Willis's best friends.
The Bob Willis Fund was launched last week in honour of the former England cricket captain and much-loved Sky Sports Broadcaster, who was a healthy 66-year-old when he was diagnosed with Prostate Cancer in April 2016. Bob sadly lost his battle with the disease in December 2019 and now his wife, Lauren Clark, and brother, David Willis, have launched a fund to support critical research into the disease, with the hope that a nationally accessible, accurate screening programme may be introduced to save the lives of many men in the future.
Discussing the Father’s Day event, Lancashire's Director of Cricket, Paul Allott, comments: “I’m delighted that we are able to host this hugely important awareness drive and provide testing facilities for supporters at Emirates Old Trafford. Bob was a close friend of mine for the best part of four decades. His death was devasting to everyone who was lucky enough to know him and to millions of cricket fans around the world. I’m thrilled that Lauren and David have launched The Bob Willis Fund and are providing another chapter to Bob’s incredible legacy. We are extremely grateful to the Barry Kilby Prostate Cancer Appeal who do an unbelievable job in raising awareness of this disease and providing testing opportunities for men across the country. Barry is a true inspiration.”
Commenting on the joint initiative, Lauren Clark, said: “We’ve been overwhelmed by the reaction since launching Bob’s fund last week and it is already having a huge impact by shining a light on this devasting disease and raising valuable funds. We can never accept Bob was taken so young, but we knew we had to use his legacy to try and prevent other families from suffering like we are. More than 11,500 men die from prostate cancer in the UK each year – that's one man every 45 minutes. This event is another valuable opportunity to raise awareness and provide men with the opportunity to get tested. We thank Emirates Old Trafford, Lancashire Cricket and the Barry Kilby Prostate Cancer Appeal for their support in making this happen.”
The Bob Willis Fund will host its first event #BlueForBob day at the England v Pakistan One-Day International on July 13 at Edbgaston. The #BlueForBob day will celebrate Bob’s life, while raising awareness and funds for prostate cancer. Supported by the ECB, Sky Sports and the BBC – fans will be encouraged to wear #BlueForBob.
In the build-up to the #BlueForBob day, people are being invited to share videos of themselves imitating Bob’s iconic action on social media, as former England captain Sir Alastair Cook famously did in a Test match against India. Bob was well known for his long run-up, bounding leap and flailing whirl that claimed 899 first-class wickets overall, including 325 Test wickets.
Barry Kilby, chair of the prostate cancer appeal in his name, added: “We are delighted to be joining forces with the Lancashire Cricket Foundation and The Bob Willis Fund and add Emirates Old Trafford to our list of testing venues. Unfortunately, there are still no national screening events for prostate cancer, and this is why our services are so important. Early detection is critical in the fight against prostate cancer, and we have been doing everything we can to host testing events across the UK in places we know men will attend, such as sports grounds. We urge all men to test themselves regularly and be vigilant against this deadly disease.”