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Pop icon Martin Kemp presents Wirral brain cancer survivor and charity founder with major award

20th December 2023

Actor, presenter and 80’s pop icon, Martin Kemp, has honoured an inspirational Wirral man who survived the world’s deadliest brain cancer with a National Lottery Award in recognition of his incredible work in establishing a charity to improve the quality of life for anyone with a diagnosis of cancer.

Two men (Martin Kemp and Dave Bolton) holding a National Lottery Awards trophie
Martin Kemp and Dave Bolton with a National Lottery Award.

The former Spandau Ballet band member and Eastenders actor, who has himself had two benign brain tumours removed, visited the Wirral today to present the Founder and Lead Trustee of Ahead of the Game Foundation, Dave Bolton, with his prize after it was announced he had won the Special Achievement category in the 2023 National Lottery Awards.

The National Lottery Awards
celebrate the inspirational people and organisations across the UK who have done extraordinary things with National Lottery funding.

Dave Bolton, 42, from Greasby, started having issues when he was 33-years-old when he suffered a nocturnal seizure and later discovered he had a brain tumour. The dad-of-two underwent surgery to remove the tennis ball sized tumour at the Walton Centre and had to take medical retirement from his job as a Detective Sergeant for Merseyside Police.

But things went from bad to worse for Dave when the results of a routine brain scan the following year in 2015 showed the tumour had not only returned, but had become a Glioblastoma Multiforme IV (GBM4) - a fast-growing and aggressive brain tumour with a devastatingly short survival time. He was given just three to eight months to live. Doctors advised him to put his affairs in order. But the former World Kickboxing Champion, who’d previously overcome a life-changing motorcycle accident, said: “I wasn’t going to sit on my couch, waiting to die.”

Dave endured two major brain surgeries and a year of aggressive chemo and radiotherapy, while suffering with multiple seizures, a medical steroid induced psychological breakdown and a skin cancer diagnosis. He also lost his mum to cancer during this time, his wife had a miscarriage and he had to retire from his much-loved career in the police force.

Instead of feeling helpless, Dave focused on what lifestyle choices he could make to improve his chances, such as diet and exercise. His positivity was rewarded when scans showed the once tennis ball-sized tumour had shrunk. He is now in the top two per cent of survivors of this cancer, having lived with terminal cancer for nine years.

Dave hasn’t stopped there, however. The dad-of-two joined forces with former Liverpool footballer Dominic Matteo to found Ahead of the Game Foundation two years ago, in order to improve the mental, physical and emotional wellbeing of anyone with a diagnosis of cancer, whilst providing vital support to their families and loved ones.

Two men (Martin Kemp and Dave Bolton) hugging holding a National Lottery Award surronded by people clapping
Martin Kemp and Dave Bolton surronding by people of Ahead of the Game Foundation.

Since it was established, Ahead of the Game has received £10,000 in grants from The National Lottery Community Fund. The charity aims to bridge the gaps in NHS provision so that every person with a diagnosis with cancer can benefit from physical, mental and emotional therapy, with free services including yoga, Pilates, guided walks, family support counselling and financial guidance.

When nominations for the National Lottery Awards opened earlier this year, members of the public were called upon to put forward individuals who have made an incredible impact in their community with the help of National Lottery funding.

The air force veteran is now a fully trained cancer rehabilitation specialist coach and provides inspiration and practical services to others embarking on the same frightening journey. He wants his story to give others hope and says: “I’m actually thankful for my situation. It’s like looking at life through new eyes.”

A group of people celebrating a National Lottery Award trophie
Martin Kemp and Dave Bolton celebrating with people of Ahead of the Game Foundation.

Honoured to be announced as the Special Achievement Award winner and receive his award from Martin Kemp, Dave Bolton said: “I remember when I was told that I had that won the National Lottery award. Just to be nominated as part of thousands of incredible people was a real honour. Receiving the phone call to inform me I had actually won was complete shock and I couldn’t quite believe it. The National Lottery has helped us set the blueprint and build the foundations for what we deliver today. The funding has helped us to reach more of some of the most vulnerable people throughout our communities who are suffering the most.”

A judging panel whittled down more than 3,700 incredible nominees to just six winners and Dave faced stiff competition to become the winner in this year’s Special Achievement category. Winners in each category received a £5,000 cash prize for their organisation and a National Lottery Awards trophy.

In 1995, Martin Kemp was diagnosed with two brain tumours after discovering a lump on the back of his head, and over the next three years, had treatment to remove them. Now, Kemp never takes the good times for granted - it was an experience he learnt a lot from which made him realise how fragile life is.

Two men (Martin Kemp and Dave Bolton) with a National Lottery Award trophie
Martin Kemp and Dave Bolton with a National Lottery Award.

Delighted to present Dave with the Award, Martin said: “Funding raised by National Lottery players has been crucial in the success of this project and it’s so inspiring to see Dave and the charity doing such excellent work in bridging the gap in services by offering much needed physical, emotional and mental rehabilitation for people with a cancer diagnosis. Having survived two benign brain tumours myself, I know only too well how important it is to have this level of support, not only for the individual, but for their families as well.

Dave is very driven and he now passes that special energy and fighting spirit on to all the people he helps. What he has achieved against all odds provides those he supports with a real sense of hope and determination to do the same. It’s an incredible honour to present Dave with this well-deserved National Lottery Special Achievement accolade.”

Thanks to National Lottery players, more than £30 million goes to good causes across the UK every week, which in turn helps people like Dave continue to carry out incredible work in their communities.