Christmas came early for six-year-old cancer patient Amelia O’Shea when she returned to Medway Maritime Hospital’s children’s ward last week.
As well as ringing the end of treatment bell, and receiving a gift from nursing staff to mark the end of her chemotherapy treatment, Amelia and her family were able to play with the toys that The Medway Hospital Charity bought on their behalf for the playroom on Dolphin Ward after they raised almost £3,000.
Her cousin Arlo Smeed launched the fundraiser after Amelia was diagnosed in September this year with Wilms’ tumour – a type of kidney cancer – on her left kidney.
The six-year old, who attends East Farleigh Primary School, sold his toys to his friends by holding several boot fairs at his school to kickstart the fundraising. He set an initial target of £200 but it was soon smashed thanks to donations from family members, friends and strangers after they heard about the appeal through word of mouth and read about it on social media.
Arlo’s mum Rebecca Thompson, 31, who lives in Maidstone, said: “Trying to explain to Arlo and my three-year-old daughter Bella about Amelia’s diagnosis in a child-friendly way was quite difficult but when I explained that she was in hospital and we would be going to visit her we spoke about how sad it was and how we felt like we wanted to do something.
“Arlo loves a boot fair so he decided he wanted to sell his toys to his friends to raise money to buy new toys for the playroom on the ward to help other children who might find themselves in a similar position to our family.
“We filled the car up with his toys every single day and set up on the school field and in the first couple of weeks he raised about £80 to £100. Then as the news spread and more and more people got involved, the money really started coming in through the JustGiving page we set up. In the end we didn’t have to do many boot fairs as people just wanted to give and support the appeal, which was just amazing.”
Thanks to everyone’s generosity the money, which totalled £2,813, has paid for a PS4, a goal post – which is in the courtyard accessed from the playroom – as well as sensory toys, projectors, arts and crafts and cars, items that cater for all ages.
Amelia’s mum Erin Thompson, 30, who lives in Chatham, said: “We were devastated when Amelia was diagnosed with cancer because she has always been healthy.”
Initially, it was thought that Amelia had a particular tumour with a poor prognosis. She had four weeks of chemotherapy before an operation to have her kidney with the tumour in it removed and sent off for biopsy.
Erin said: “When we got the results we were told it was Wilms’ tumour and possibly stage 3 which involved more intensive treatment but a week later we were told it was stage 1 which was good news. So she underwent another four weeks of chemotherapy, which was her entire treatment plan but it felt like forever.
“She’s been so brave throughout it all so to see her ring the end of treatment bell before Christmas and the new toys that have been bought for the playroom is fantastic.
“We’re so proud of Arlo for starting the fundraiser. It’s something I wanted to do but I was looking after Amelia. We hope the toys help to keep the children as happy as they can possibly be while they are on the ward.”
Donna Law, Charity and Fundraising Manager for The Medway Hospital Charity, said: “I’d like to say a massive thank you to the family for their donation. It means our young patients, as well as their families, have more activities while they are staying on the ward and if a poorly child is engaged in play they get better and leave hospital quicker and that can only be a good thing.”