Charity chief executive loses cancer battle

Allen Whittaker
Allen Whittaker

The chief executive of a Stockport cancer care centre has lost his own battle with the disease.

Allen Whittaker, CEO of Beechwood Cancer Care Centre, was diagnosed with oesophageal cancer just a few months ago and was admitted to Manchester Royal Infirmary for surgery but sadly died while still in hospital on Saturday, April 23.

The 59-year-old from Marple took over at Beechwood in August 2000, inheriting the charity’s substantial deficits, but since then has worked tirelessly with his team to turn the charity around, to make it a success for the Greater Manchester community – being awarded the Chamber of Commerce Social Entrepreneur of the Year in 2003.

During his leadership at Beechwood, the charity has gone from strength to strength to provide care and support for people with cancer and other life-limiting illnesses and their loved ones after diagnosis.

Allen Whittaker and Angela Gray from Beechwood
Allen Whittaker with fundraising manager Angela Gray

Allen, who was also a governor at The Christie hospital, acquired the Beechwood headquarters in Bridgehall, Stockport, soon after he started at the charity and increased the number of Beechwood charity shops in the borough to five in total, as well as building the Butterfly Family Centre, and extending community facilities with two major fundraising campaigns.

Beechwood has been recognised with the North West Excellence Award, and is Stockport’s largest independent charity, last year gaining the prestigious Queen’s Award for Voluntary Service.

Allen, who was invested as a Deputy Lord Lieutenant for Greater Manchester in 2014, was a true Stopfordian, passionate about developing the community and voluntary sector in the borough.

He leaves behind his wife Cath and son Allen, and the whole Beechwood community and beyond, who are devastated by his loss.

Alan Baxter, chair of trustees at Beechwood, said: “All the team are devastated. Allen was Beechwood, he was not just a chief executive but a much loved and respected friend.

“It was Allen’s tireless dedication and support that made Beechwood the success that is it today, it is hard to imagine how we will go forward with the loss of this great man.”

Business specialist

As well as his position at Beechwood, Allen, whose 30-year career in business consultancy spanned a wide range of sectors, was also a Prince’s Trust mentor, an active member of the Rotary Club of Stockport, having been president in 2009/2010 and was chairman of governors of Woodley Primary School and vice chairman at Adswood Primary School.

Allen’s voluntary work also included past chairmanships of Brinnington Community First, Cancer Aid, Listening Line and Stockport Business Club.

He was also a member of an Enterprise Award Panel to encourage entrepreneurship within primary schools and was chairman of a grant awarding panel who assist funding for smaller community groups and was chairman of Anchorpoint – a community and voluntary sector support organisation.