As we approach Christmas, many of us will be hoping for a better festive season than last year – most especially families like Evie Armstrong’s.
Six-year-old Evie was first diagnosed with acute myeloid leukaemia at the end of August 2020, when a routine trip to the doctors took a turn for the worse. Since that fateful day, Evie has had to spend most of the last 18 months in hospital receiving treatment which has included multiple rounds of chemotherapy and a bone marrow transplant. With the nearest specialist hospital for children’s cancer being Leeds Children’s Hospital, over 60 miles away from Evie’s home, and strict COVID restrictions allowing only one parent to be with their child for most of this time, Evie has scarcely seen her immediate or extended family since her diagnosis.
Through this time, Evie and her family have been supported by children’s cancer charity Candlelighters. Each year, around 150 children in Yorkshire are diagnosed with cancer. Candlelighters offer emotional, practical, and financial support to the families of children receiving treatment at Leeds Children’s Hospital (who may come from all across the region), with Family Support teams based both at the hospital and out in communities.
Evie’s birthday is just a week before Christmas, and last year she spent both these special days in hospital, recovering from a third round of chemotherapy. Evie’s dad, Simon, spent these days in hospital with her, with mum Katy at home looking after their younger daughter, Beatrice. Despite this, Evie’s mum Katy said, ‘Candlelighters and the play team made it magical for Evie. She had a birthday disco with a bubble machine and the most wonderful presents including a beautiful princess dress. Candlelighters stepped in where I couldn’t be and made it a memorable Christmas. We are so very thankful.’ Katy continued, ‘At the moment, we are possibly facing another Christmas on the ward, but knowing how well we will be looked after does bring comfort at an uncertain time for our family.’
Emily Wragg, CEO, of Candlelighters, said, ‘Despite everyone’s best efforts, the sad truth is that not all children with cancer will make it home for Christmas, and many of the children we support, will spend a significant portion of their childhood in hospital. It is absolutely vital that we are able to support families like Evie’s not just at Christmas, but all year round, bringing light in the darkest of times. It’s thanks to the generous support of the public that we can be there for families and ensure that they never face these challenging times alone.’
Candlelighters will be making Christmas ‘magical’ again for children with cancer in hospital this year, providing Christmas activities, visits from Santa, Christmas eve boxes and gifts, as well as making sure the wards look like a winter wonderland with Christmas trees and decorations. The charity will also be providing financial grants to the families of patients including those who are able to spend Christmas at home, ensuring that every child’s Christmas is as special as possible. This is all in addition to the year-round emotional and practical support that the charity provides to families on or post treatment and those who are sadly bereaved – for whom Christmas can be a very difficult time.
To help fund its support for families over Christmas and across 2022, Candlelighters are asking people to give donations, take part in their Christmas raffle, or to help spread awareness of the charity.
Their Christmas raffle this year features a number of not to be missed prizes, including their star prize which is a must for any sports fan – A Leeds Rhinos VIP Experience for 10, worth over £2,500. The group of 10 will watch the match from their own VIP seats and will enjoy free pre and post-match hospitality in the famous Emerald Suite.
Tickets are just £1 each and every purchase will help Candlelighters be there for children and families facing childhood cancer this Christmas as well as giving the gift of hope with their investment into childhood cancer research for a brighter future.
Tickets must be purchased by midnight on 16th December and the winners will be drawn on Friday 17th December. To support Candlelighters and have the chance to win one of a number of fabulous prizes, you can find out more and buy tickets here: https://www.candlelighters.org.uk/candlelighters-christmas-raffle-2021/
To make a donation head to https://candlelighters.enthuse.com/donate#!/ and to see other ways to help Candlelighters this Christmas, visit here https://www.candlelighters.org.uk/christmas-at-candlelighters/