THE generosity of a local farmer and his family has given a big boost to the campaign to build a landmark cancer centre in north Hampshire.

Geoff Saunders, who passed away in May, donated more than £12,500 from his Charities Aid Foundation account to the Ark Cancer Centre Charity.

The charity hopes to raise £5million through fundraising which will go towards the creation of a £13.5m state-of-the-art cancer centre at a site to be identified near Basingstoke.

Sadly, the well-known farmer passed away suddenly on May 6 at the age of 80 from a suspected blockage in an artery, after enjoying a night out with his wife Cilla.

Speaking about the donation that he made late last year, Cilla, 57, said: “He read about the appeal and just thought it was a really great cause.

“We know people who have had to travel down to Southampton to get cancer treatments, and it was something that Geoff was very keen to support.

“He always wanted the money to go locally and when he read about the Ark Cancer Centre Charity, he knew it was the right charity to donate to.”

Geoff’s daughter Jackie, 56, who lives in Basingstoke, has since closed down her own Charities Aid Foundation account and made a donation of £9,000 to the appeal.

Cilla said: “It was something her father was supporting and I know she was very keen to give something to the charity as well. We are really pleased so many of our friends and family are also supporting the charity.”

Merv Rees, trustee of the charity and clinical director of surgery at Hampshire Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust, had known the couple for many years as a friend and surgeon, and had previously operated on Geoff, from Baughurst.

He said he was sorry not to have got the chance to have thanked Geoff personally for the donation – the first major donation to be received by the charity – before his death. He was pleased, however, to get the chance to meet Cilla and Jackie at a recent thank-you dinner.

Mr Rees said: “Geoff was a wonderful man and we will all miss him very much. We are so very grateful to him and all who knew him who have chosen to show their support for such an important project that will benefit so many people.”