Family seeks to fund Will's Woodland Retreat
Childhood brain tumour charity Little Hero, set up in 2019 in memory of six-year-old Will Rainsbury, is embarking on a new countryside adventure.
Will’s parents, John and Lee-Ann, moved their family from Westbury Park to a small holding near Tiverton in Devon in September, with the purpose of creating an isolated retreat for children and their families who are going through cancer treatment. The family has been working hard to prepare the land, start planning, get suppliers and purchase a therapy pig, goat and pony.
John says: “We thoroughly believe that these kids deserve to enjoy their days out as much as any other child. The work Little Hero does in this area helps to provide critical tiny nuggets of joy to help things feel a little more normal and give these brave boys and girls a chance to feel like a child again, not to mention making happy memories for families to hold on to.”
Since the project was launched on what would have been Will’s eighth birthday, November 20, more than 300 pledges have been made and a forest school in Bristol is linking up to offer ideas about what to set up on site.
Little Hero charity is fundraising to cover the cost of groundworks and to construct and build huts, which will enable families with a child experiencing cancer treatment to have a fully-funded countryside break in a safe environment.
Will was diagnosed with a Group 3, Medulloblastoma, a particularly aggressive high-grade childhood brain tumour. He experienced nine months of treatment, including 32 radiotherapy sessions, six months of high-dose chemotherapy and 12-hour brain surgery before his death in January 2019.
When children are undergoing treatment, they’re often neutropenic and susceptible to infection, so finding things to do is particularly tricky. They can spend a lot of time in isolation due to a compromised immune system and never-ending infections, and the children can feel self-conscious and may want to go at a different pace.
Will’s Woodland Retreat is a magical six-acre plot that John and his family are creating as a free holiday respite destination for families affected by childhood cancer.
John says: “When our respite retreat is not being used by children and their families impacted by cancer, the plan is to offer the facility to the glamping crowd, with all of the proceeds going to fund the facility and further brain tumour research. People are making an investment in someone’s happiness.”
Little Hero charity supports those going through treatment and funds research into the causes and treatment of childhood brain tumours. Family, friends, pupils, teachers and parents from Westbury Park School and the community took part in many fundraising events for Little Hero in 2019, £30,000 of which went to The Brain Tumour Charity for a study into the origin of which cells turn into cancer.
Together with another children's brain tumour charity Blue Skye Thinking, Little Hero is funding the £150,000 research costs in 2021 for work by the INSTINCT network, which brings together the work of leading scientists and clinicians at Newcastle University, University College London Institute of Child Health and the Institute of Cancer Research, in the field of high-risk paediatric brain tumour. Scientists will be testing different drug combinations to identify which treatment combinations are effective and which options aren’t necessary. This is novel research, looking at all possible combinations of treatments including chemotherapy, immunotherapy and radiation.
“Will is always going to be a Bristol boy,” says John.
“It’s important for people to understand that there is a long road ahead with research but it doesn’t have to be complicated with the respite holiday. As long as the environment is warm, safe and clean, then children can enjoy being in a different but comfortable environment, sitting by a campfire or enjoying a walk through the woods.”
To support the campaign see: www.virginmoneygiving.com/fund/woodlandretreat
To find out more about Little Hero see: www.facebook.com/Littlehero.org.uk/