Sunday, 4 May 2014

Community Spirit

Remember Evie? 

 A little girl who began to show signs of illness earlier this year, a substantial weight loss, severe anaemia, and then the lumps started to appear.  Her mother told me that she knew then that something was majorly wrong.  She was right, within two weeks, a diagnosis of Hodgkins Lymphoma was made, and Evie went straight into chemotherapy.

She is eight years old.

One of the reasons why I wrote the A Story for Evie was because of a natural human urge to want to help those friends who are suffering.  Evie was in unfamiliar surroundings, but her family were in unfamiliar territory and in total shock.  At first they didn’t even understand the vast amounts of information that was flung at them, and from that faltering position they had to make decisions about treatments and locations and all the while coping with the hidden terror that comes with cancer.

One of the things that they were told was to be totally honest up front with Evie and her siblings.  Her older sister at 12, was savvy enough to realise how serious it was, and her younger brother at 4 was too little to understand the implications of the disease, but was devastated that she would lose her hair like all the other children on the ward where he visited her.  As outsiders, one can only imagine how the parents coped.  As outsiders, we all felt helpless, wanting to do something, wanting to say ‘It will be all right’ and smoothing away all the fear, the pain and the sleepless nights.

In my last post Memory Lane I wrote about how valuable old friendships are, and how we should treasure them.  But I also acknowledged that new and recent acquaintances can be just as immeasurable in the love and friendship that they offer.  Hence when I wrote the Story for Evie, which urged people to give to the Little Princess Trust, a charity who made wigs out of real hair for sick children, and Evie’s mother shaved her hair off in support, there was an outpouring of donations.  People, new friends, old friends and family just wanted to help.

And there were a number of other things that people did for charity in the name of Evie.  This little 8 year old inspired people to run, to shave their heads, to hold bake sales.  She came runner up in the Pride of Bracknell Awards, and the mummies at school decided to organise a fundraiser fun day in order to raise money for Evie herself.  This was billed as Evie’s Wardrobe of Multicoloured Wigs – and as friends we were all invited to donate any toys, unwanted gifts, our time, or just to come along and show our support.

Held at the Pines School Professional Centre in Bracknell on Saturday, I took Little Man along.  We didn’t really know what to expect.  The first thing we saw when we walked in was Minnie and Mickey Mouse walking around and greeting everyone.  And then I was enveloped in a massive bear hug.  It was Evie’s dad with a big beam on his face.  Evie’s Aunties greeted me from the stalls that they were manning – chocolate drop, bits and bobs stall, and treasure hunt.  There was a stunning cake stand that seemed to stretch for miles, and face painting, nail painting, biscuit decorating, crafting, name a bear, several sweetie stands, clothes stands and the ever popular tombola.

Picture courtesy of  Jasmine El- Mekki

And above all there was the aromatic scent of curry simmering in the kitchen cooked by Evie’s grandfather.  You could have lamb, chicken, and chickpea curry, with 2 rices, a naan, an onion bhaji and a tomato and onion salad for £3.00.  Little Man perked up.  He loves curry.  He also loved a big cuddly bear (that I was sure that we had donated in the first place), his two tombola prizes and the two cakes that he bought.  He bought raffle tickets, won some chocolate on the chocolate game and tried to guess the correct square on the find the treasure game.

I spotted Evie and her mum, both of whom gave me a hug.  Evie was serene, seemingly unfazed by being the centre of attention and being smothered in the outpouring of love that came her way whenever someone new walked in.  She asked me if I liked the bracelets that she had made, and were up for sale.  Little Man and I watched as she showed us how to weave the little elastic bands into these colourful rubber bracelets.  She had made them all whilst undergoing her treatment in hospital.  I asked her to choose me two, and I put the money in an already over flowing pot.

I will treasure those bracelets.

We left as Evie and her family posed for the local newspaper.  All around them was the protective sea of pink T shirts of all of the volunteers.  The love and support emanating from them was palpable.
And as we got into the car, Little Man turned to me and said
 ‘That Evie, she must be really famous, to have all of those people raising money for her.’

  ‘No darling’, I said, ‘She’s just a normal little girl, but she and her family are very, very loved’.

Evie's fundraising day raised a large amount of money for her and her family, and so they have asked that any readers who are touched by her story and wish to donate, please give to The Little Princess Trust, a charity who provides wigs free of charge to sick children undergoing treatment.