We are incredibly excited to be able to announce to our supportive and rapidly growing community a pivotal and progressive step forward in our on-going development.

We have made no secret of the fact that targeted and impactful research is a huge part of our vision for Victoria’s Promise, executing on that however was a matter of timing, opportunity and understanding. In a serendipitous conference co-founder Alex Eastman was blown away by a lecture given by a dynamic and extremely knowledgeable geneticist, Dr Helen O’Neill. Having first been so heavily impressed upon by her talk, and then to find out of her position in the Institute for Women’s Health at University College London and her involvement in Global Women Connected, Alex realised the opportunity for alignment was too great to ignore.

After meeting, Alex and Dr O’Neill realised that the vision, values and mission of Victoria’s Promise resonate very strongly with those Dr O’Neill holds both professionally and personally and they began to plan how they could join forces. It was then the position of Director of Scientific research was agreed upon.

Alex said of Dr O’Neill;

“It is hard for me to explain my true excitement around having an individual of both the calibre and character of Dr O’Neill on board. For us, it brings a huge opportunity to enter into serious and progressive research, and for Helen and her masters students we can become a vehicle for their extraordinary efforts, education, knowledge and diligence into instant impact on the front line of an area that Helen is extremely passionate about. I came away from agreeing her involvement probably the most excited I can recall being in a long time. The potential for where we can take Victoria’s Promise with this kind of involvement is limitless. It will be one of the days we look back on in 5, 10 years as another tipping point in our impact.”

An exciting project that will be among the first collaborations is the Victoria’s Promise Scholarship at the University College London. In an effort to produce impactful and published scientific material that will further our understanding and progression in cancer care, VP will develop research projects that medical and masters students will bid to take on as part of their research studies.

Dr Helen O’Neill comes with impressive credentials;

A molecular geneticist and Programme Director for the MSc in Reproductive Science and Women’s Health at the Institute for Women’s Health in University College London (UCL). Helen completed her BSc in Genetics at University College Cork in Ireland and went on to complete her MSc in Prenatal Genetics and Fetal Medicine at University College London. Helen completed her PhD and postdoctoral research in the Department of Stem cell biology and developmental genetics in the laboratory of Professor Robin Lovell-Badge at the National Institute for Medical Research (now the Francis Crick Institute). There, she researched the genes involved in sex determination, including genes crucial for the formation of ovaries. As part of the Embryology, IVF and Reproductive Genetics Group, she is researching the morphokinetics of preimplantation embryos and is using CRISPR gene editing to assess the treatment and understanding of sex chromosome disorders and neuromuscular disorders.

Dr O’Neill when asked how she felt about her new position at Victoria’s Promise said;

“I am delighted to be on board with Victoria’s Promise. The cause and Victoria’s story really resonated with me, it made me want to help make a difference to other women like Victoria. I am hugely excited to be able to bring impactful research opportunities to VP and hope to make real steps forward in innovative cancer care.”

Please join us in welcoming Dr Helen O’Neill to our VP family.


Vegan Pancake Recipe

Vegan Pancake Recipe

Vegan pancakes are so easy to make and taste delicious. We’ve created a quick and simple recipe below, just in time for Pancake Day!


  • 1 cup self-raising flour
  • 1 tbsp custard powder
  • 1 tbsp caster sugar
  • 1 cup soya milk
  • 6 tbsp whipped aquafaba


  • Using a clean bowl and hand-whisk, whip the aquafaba for about 1 minute until it resembles white foam
  • In another bowl place self raising flour, custard powder and sugar
  • Whisk in soya milk just enough to remove lumps
  • Using a large metal spoon, fold in 6 tbsp of the whipped aquafaba
  • Heat a non-stick pancake pan using a very little sunflower oil
  • Place spoonfuls of the mix into the hot pan and leave for 1 min before turning (keep the heat to medium as they can easily burn)
  • Refresh oil and repeat

Serve with your choice of toppings (maple syrup is a must) and enjoy! To make the thinner french crepes – use more soya milk for a thinner batter. The batter will keep in the fridge for several hours before use.

Victoria’s Promise Annual Ball 2016 – A memorable evening

Victoria’s Promise Annual Ball 2016 – A memorable evening

A gathering of support

As dusk fell on Audleys Wood hotel’s beautiful gothic renaissance mansion, gleamingly glamorous ladies and neatly arranged gentlemen gathered inside the large, historic drawing room for canapés, reception drinks, warm re-acquaintance and welcoming introductions.

Our glittering guests made their way toward the purple glowing marquee and were greeted by a shimmering sea of beautifully appointed tables, highlighted in purple ribbon and floral centrepieces. Having taken their seats, Victoria’s Promise co-founder and the VP Ball’s master of ceremonies, Alex Eastman, welcomed the guests with a short poem:

“Tonight we lift, we raise, we dance.

Tonight we hope, we believe, we chance.

Tonight we remember, the lost, the cause.

For this is ours, is us, is yours.

It’s time for joy, for love to win.

It’s time for change, so let’s begin.

And welcome, to you, to one and all,

to this, the Victoria’s Promise Ball”

The evening was kicked off with a raucous game of heads or tails, with Thomas Power sportingly taking the role of the game’s coin “tosser” – and he did a sterling job. After many a toss, we reached our final six remaining players, with Monica Whalley going against the grain with a tails prediction. She saw away the other five players who all chose heads and became the winner of the coveted Barbour Jacket. After a hard-fought battle for second place (and some questionable influence from judge Alex Eastman) the second place prize, two tickets to see Beautiful in London’s West End, was won by Jacqui Ball.

Fellow co-founder, CJ van der Westhuizen, then drew the winner of the lucky ticket, which each person found at their table place. The winning ticket went to Jane Lumley taking away a fabulous Fortnum & Mason Hamper, one of two generously donated by Steve and Anne Townend.

Dinner was served, and the guests proceeded with the convivial nature of the evening, as the marquee filled with ambient discourse and exuberant laughter. Over dessert the raffle was drawn, with a plethora of prizes to be won, CJ conducted the raffle, keeping his poise amongst the shrieks of victory, especially those heard by the popular flurry of wins for Lizi Jeffery.

After coffee, cheese & biscuits had been served the stage was re-taken by the evening’s master of ceremonies, Alex Eastman. Alex took a moment to congratulate the newly engaged Katie Law and Adam Nelson, before regaling an amusing anecdote around one of his more “revealing” moments as a Victoria’s Promise co-founder. It was then that Alex introduced VP star employee Sophie Trew, informing the audience of her own trial with cancer, a trial she overcame with flying colours, and her since dedication to impacting in this space, the pioneering work she has been doing as a VP employee followed by a testimony of her general character.

After hearing about Sophie’s story, guests watched a powerful and moving video that shared the stories of some of VP’s beneficiaries. The video really brought home, to an emotional crowd, just how truly powerful and impactful the work that Victoria’s Promise continues to be. A stark reminder of why we’d all gathered that evening, and of the importance of this community together in the room.

Alex spoke of his realisations around the transformational nature of suffering, how it can be harnessed and re-appropriated towards something meaningful and purposeful. He expressed his extreme gratitude for the people who had attended the ball, before revealing some lessons that he felt his sister, Victoria, would have shared had she had the opportunity to be there.

It was then that Alex began his main announcement

After a rousing build up, Alex announced the appointment of their new General Manager, Dino Rakitzis. Having laid the stage, Dino approached the podium and delivered and wonderfully emotive, professional, yet personable speech. After detailing the vision and mission of Victoria’s Promise, Dino took the time to garner the audience with some of the personal experiences that lead him to sidestep from what was a high flying career in the corporate sector, to taking the helm of this exciting and ambitious charity. The new GM gave a heart felt account of having lost his mother, after a difficult battle with MND, who had also lost her sister to cancer. Dino’s mother had shared with him that despite her excruciating and drawn out illness, was glad it was not Cancer that she was suffering with. This was a moment of powerful realisation for Dino, who knew then that cancer, was the most important disease of our time. After speaking of the services that VP now provide, as well as the future of the charity, Dino left the stage to a deafening standing ovation.

Fiona & CJ were then introduced to the stage to host the first VP Annual award ceremony Sponsored by BMW Ridgeway Marshall. 

The first awards of the evening were presented to the Victoria’s Promise fundraisers in attendance, that had raised up to £1,000 for the charity. Our award winners were generously applauded before Fiona read out the winners for the next category – the outstanding achievement award, awarded to the VP fundraisers in attendance that had raised over £1000 individually. Next was the turn of the VP volunteers to be recognised for their hard work and kindness with a heartfelt thank you from Fiona and a presentation of a purple bouquet from CJ.

Then came time for the most notable award of the evening; The Victoria van der Westhuizan Special Honour Award. 

After an emotional announcement by Victoria’s husband, and VP Co-founder CJ, Gerda Bennett was named winner. A hugely popular choice, the crowd immediately rose to their feet in applause, as a stunned and emotional Gerda made her way to the stage among a sea of well wishers and congratulators. A hugely special moment for her and the trustees as Gerda was incredibly close to Victoria and has been invaluable in her support to the charity since day one.

Award winners - Excellence in Fundraising

Adam Nelson
Katie Law
Lizzy Bridson
Debra Barr
Hannah Mckenna
Fraser Cameron
Hannah Power
David Bridson
Russell Pratt
Jennie Blake
Peta Alvares
Amelia Alvares
Billie-Dee Bromley
Deborah Stevens

Award winners - Outstanding Achievement

Ollie Trew
Isha Hawkins-Grobler
Anita De Haas Marshall
Ruari Ross
Dane Kenleyside
Ross Power
Vicki Ratcliff
Jolly Callcut

Victoria Van Der Westhuizen Award

Gerda Bennett

After the awards, came the time for our charity auction. Our energetic and passionate auctioneer Alex, manauvered the marquee with mercurial Machiavellian, capturing the foray of flurrying bids. With the excitement building to fever pitch on each of our live auctions, thanks to the generousity of our wonderful guests. With notable, well spirited affronts taking place between certain tables, in particular when it came to our highest received bid on the evening for the luxury, private Villa Minos for a week, that fetched a whopping £3,000 bid. The final game, a test of steal, as everyone was asked to take to their feet for a “last man standing” for the final Lot, the two day Champney’s Spa, after some hardy rounds, the figure reached £1,300 before we were down to our final two.. and our final winner, Casey Paul, stood firm until we reached a fantastic, £1400. We are hugely grateful to all of our kind and generous guests that participated in the auction and the extremely generous donators of our fabulous auction lots.

After the auction, it was the time for our resident band; The Somebody’s to take the stage, and within moments the dance floor was a crowd scene, with singing and dancing in full swing, even our head of social media, Laura Jenkinson, took to the microphone, joyfuly flapping along to “take on me”.

It was an absolutely fantastic night, made so special by each of our beautifully benevolent guests. We are truly grateful for all that made it such an incredible success, our attendees, our sponsors, our raffle and auction donators, and wonderful photographers and videographer.

We are delighted to announce, that a culmination of the efforts of all of the people listed above, resulted in us generating £46,000 on the evening. An amount that will go an extraordinary distance in supporting young women through cancer.

Sun Shines for VP’s First Annual Golf Day

Sun Shines for VP’s First Annual Golf Day

The first Victoria’s Promise annual golf day was a swinging success. On Thursday 8th September we welcomed eight teams to Wokefield Park. The game began after breakfast rolls and a team captain huddle for the Stableford rules. Following team photos on the first hole it was tee off time. The players got into the competitive spirit of the day warming up over the first few holes.

Chris Tennant got so comfortable on the fairway that he left his phone and club there. A member of the overall winning team, maybe these tactics were part of Chris’ strategy! The beautiful weather made for a great round with the wind adding to the challenge.

At hole 10 the VP refreshment bar provided a much needed energy boost and rehydration. The play stepped up for the final holes with the added challenge of longest drive and nearest the pin.


18 holes later, the players were treated to a delicious two course meal in the Mansion House. Before dessert, VP Trustee Alex Eastman, spoke about the charity and the work we are doing to raise vital funds to support young women through cancer. He introduced the range of support services currently available, this includes the new service to help with housework and childcare, particularly difficult areas to keep on top of when you’re suffering with side effects from cancer treatment.

Everyone will agree the awesome prizes were a super addition to the event. Overall Female went to Sylvia Davis, Overall Runner Up to TJ Power, and Chris Baldwin had a particularly good day winning Overall Male, longest drive and as part of the overall winning team. A silent auction was held for a signed Justin Rose hat. Bids for the Olympic champion’s signature cap will roll over into the ball on October 22nd.

A big thank you to all involved in making the golf day a very special one. To all the players for their super efforts and support, to Wokefield Park for hosting at their lovely grounds, to the great organising team and to everyone who donated the fantastic prizes for our players.

We’re already excited about the second annual golf day in 2017, and we look forward to welcoming you there.