IT is a state-of-the-art treatment centre in Southampton that has been helping patients with their fight against blood cancer for the last nine months.

But had it not been for the support of Daily Echo readers, Southampton Hospital Charity could still be trying to raise the £1.76m that was needed to build it.

After more than four years of tireless fundraising, an endless stream of donations and non-stop wacky adventures that got pulses racing, the Red and White Appeal – backed by the Daily Echo – smashed its target months ahead of schedule.

And now haematology patients can be treated in comfort and without fear of infection at the dedicated day care unit at Southampton General Hospital.

To mark Local Newspaper Week, which this year has the theme Making a Difference, we are looking back at how this newspaper and its readers played a vital role in making the dream of this unit a reality.

The appeal was launched at the Daily Echo offices in Redbridge back in November 2008 with the aim of building the specialist unit at the Tremona Road site.

Previously patients had to go to another area of the hospital and share facilities with patients suffering from solid tumour cancers.

But as the number of patients needing treatment soared the clinics became very overcrowded, causing more stress and more importantly putting blood cancer patients, who have low immune systems, at risk of more infections that could seriously compromise their recovery.

The new unit is vital in ensuring that these patients, who have already battled so hard to fight the disease, get the very best quality care without putting them at unnecessary risk.

Victoria Greenshields, fundraising manager for Southampton Hospital Charity, which ran the appeal, said: “Without the support of our donors, local businesses and, of course, our local paper, the Daily Echo, we could never have reached this target.

“The Daily Echo has been invaluable to help Southampton Hospital Charity to reach a wider audience that we wouldn’t have necessarily been able to capture with our existing charity supporters.

“Having articles in the paper helped us to give the locals and donors more confidence in the appeal as they were getting regular and time specific updates throughout the countdown articles.

“The paper also helped us to boost our community fundraisers’ morale and spirit, as their fundraising achievements were also recognised.

“The regular support from the Daily Echo really helped to keep the momentum of the appeal going.”

  • The Daily Echo’s Have a Heart campaign is in the running for a special award as part of Local Newspaper Week’s Making a Difference theme.

To vote for our campaign visit <&bh"">http://www.localnews<&eh>.

Voting closes at midnight on Wednesday.