Recently, the Dinosaur and I have been involved in promoting a new charity in Gloucestershire called Emily’s Gift operating under the umbrella of the Pied Piper Appeal. Their aim is simple: raise £500,000 in one year to fund psychological support for ten years for the families of the children’s oncology unit at Gloucestershire Royal Hospital.
Currently, Gloucester is the only shared care hospital in the South West that has no psychological support available for families. With the Dinosaur having been diagnosed with Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia in February 2022, suddenly our whole changed literally overnight. To say it was tough adjusting to a life-threatening diagnosis of our child is an understatement, not to mention the repeated trauma he goes through when he has his central line accessed or has his nasogastric tube changed and on top of that there were all the difficult decisions we made when deciding whether or not to allow him to be part of a new trial which is trying to improve outcomes for each cancer survivor. I know firsthand how desperately psychological support is needed for the families in the Emily Kent Unit.
Who is Emily?
The charity is named Emily’s Gift in honor of Emily Kent who the children’s oncology ward is also named after. It was launched on what would have been Emily’s 31st birthday and will be her gift to the families in her unit. Emily was born on 10th March 1992 and was the first child of Julie Kent MBE and her husband.
When Emily was just two and a half years old she was diagnosed with a brain tumour. Like many other children diagnosed with cancer, the symptoms were easily mistaken for other things. In Emily’s case, she kept falling over and was dragging her feet a little when she walked. In the Dinosaur’s case he was tired all the time, constantly had a fever, unusual bruises for no reason, night sweats and sudden and severe onset leg pain. For Emily’s parents, like us, her diagnosis came out of the blue. Emily started her cancer treatment straight away but sadly she lost her life on 15th June 1995. She was just 3 years old. With the legacy this new charity will leave, Emily’s life, although short, will have a huge impact on many families.
Why psychological support is so important.
NICE guidance states that childhood cancer patients, as well as their families and carers, should have their psychological needs assessed throughout their treatment and that appropriate support should be offered. Currently, Gloucestershire is the only shared care centre in the South West that does not have this support available.
Children and young people (aged 0–24 years) with cancer, and their families and carers, have their psychological and social needs assessed at key points in their care pathway and receive support based on their identified needs.https://www.nice.org.uk/guidance/qs55/chapter/quality-statement-4-psychological-and-social-support
A shared care centre is a local hospital that carries out the more routine aspects of the care and treatment required, this care is carried out under the guidance of the main treatment centre which in South West, is Bristol Children’s hospital. In the Dinosaur’s case, the first few weeks of treatment were carried out at Bristol and then some blocks of treatment were also done in Bristol alongside Gloucester but once he reached the maintenance stage of treatment all the rest of his care is being carried out at Gloucester. Unless something goes horribly wrong, he won’t have any further treatment in Bristol.
Receiving a cancer diagnosis at any age is a hugely devastating event, it’s one of those things that is one of your very worst fears as a parent. If you’re anything like me (BD – before diagnosis) then you may have tried to imagine what it might be like to be told your child has cancer. I know I did when watching cancer charity appeals, especially the ones that have interviews with the parents. Let me take this opportunity to tell you that whatever you may imagine, the reality is far worse.
I am not a doctor, nor am I trained in psychology, and neither is Daddy Dino yet suddenly we had to explain to a then 4-year-old that he had cancer, what the treatment entailed and what was going to happen over the coming months. We also had to explain this to a then 9-year-old all while trying to process the news ourselves.
Even once you’ve got past the initial shock of diagnosis, this support is required throughout treatment. Worrying about infections and unplanned hospital stays, restraining your child during the traumatic medical procedures, the changes to everyday life, keeping track of multiple medical appointments, filling in forms, keeping an eye on food and drink intake, making sure you give the right medicines at the right time and on the right day. It can easily become overwhelming.
How you can help
There are a few different ways that you can help raise the £500,000 target:
- You could donate via the Just Giving page
- You could give a donation as a gift for a birthday, anniversary, Christmas or another occasion
- Your business could pledge £2000
- You could join the £2k challenge and pledge to raise £2000
- You could make Emily’s Gift your companies designated charity for the year
There is a whole host of fun and exciting ways to raise money for Emily’s Gift, some of them require very little effort but some will require some planning.
- sell unwanted items and donate the money – you could do a garage sale, car boot sale, sell on websites like eBay, Vinted or Facebook Marketplace or if you have something really special, you could take it to an auction room.
- hold a bake sale
- organise a sponsored event such as a bike ride, walk or swim or for something less energetic what about a sponsored silence or readathon
- hold a skills or promise auction
- shave your head
- do a skydive
- do a bungee jump
- use easyfundraising when you are doing your shopping online
- hold a dress down or fancy dress day at work – you could get everyone to wear purple, the official colour of Emily’s Gift
- host a coffee morning
- organise a theme night such as a quiz or a themed disco
- organise a pampering evening
- ask for donations instead of gifts for your birthday/Christmas/your anniversary/your retirement etc.
- hold a collection at work
- hold a book sale
- ask your children’s school if they will do a non uniform day
- arrange a football tournament
- hold a Krispy Kreme sale
- arrange a community car wash
- upcycle items to sell on
Whatever you decide to do to raise money for Emily’s Gift, please make sure that you contact them at email@example.com first to check that your idea is ok and to make sure that you are meeting their fundraising requirements.