One of my closest friends, George, inspired me to start up the charity when I was 15-years-old… he was diagnosed with cancer when he was young and unfortunately had to have his leg amputated – at the time, it was literally a case of ‘lose your leg, or your life’. And yet, he always had such a positive attitude, despite having faced so many obstacles already in his young life. His outlook inspired me to get out there and try and do something for other young people going through what he went through.
Raising money for young people in particular was, and still is, very important to me… as a teenager, you’re placed in a very distinct category – you’re not a child, but not quite an adult – and so the help and support you require can be very different to that of an older person or infant. I always thought to myself, if I was diagnosed with cancer tomorrow, what would I need? What kind of help would I want?
I never imagined Butterfly Giving would grow into what it has… it all started with a couple of cake sales, raising money for existing children’s and teenage cancer charities. I then, with the help of my mum and dad, organised my very first event – a Bugsy Malone -inspired charity night at Wynyard Hall – and the rest is history really. At the time I was too young to register the charity myself, so my dad stepped in and looked after the legal side of things. I then took over when I turned 18.
The charity’s name was inspired by the film ‘The Butterfly Effect’… it was a popular movie at the time, but the meaning still rings true today. It’s the idea of doing something small and it turning into something bigger. That’s what I wanted for the charity. I remember raising my first £10 from a cake sale and being ecstatic – now our events and work raise hundreds and thousands.
We did a lot of localised work in the beginning and still do now… by the time were registered we had made quite a few links with local hospitals through word of mouth. We recently gave a grant of around £1,000 to one of Newcastle’s big hospitals and another to a young local woman who suffered horrific side effects from her cancer treatment, which meant she could go on holiday.
The money we’re making is never going to be enough to build a hospital ward, but it can go towards the small things that can make a big difference… like our ‘sunshine boxes’, which are sent to young people who have recently been diagnosed. Their parents, friends or even doctors can nominate them and we fill the boxes with some of their favourite things – which are then sent to either their home, hospital ward or even their hospice. We also make ‘bags of sunshine’, filled with toiletries and essentials, for those may be admitted to hospital unexpectedly. Things you’d hope you’d have access to in hospital, like a toothbrush and toothpaste, flannels and notepads and pens for parents incase they need to write down any notes about their child’s condition or treatment. We also design ‘caterpillar boxes’ for patients’ siblings, filled with games, puzzles and arts and crafts for them to play with, perhaps while their brother or sister is receiving treatment or being seen by a doctor.
It can be tough juggling the charity and my university studies in Norwich, but I’m lucky to have a great group of people around me, who have taken it upon themselves to help me out when I’m away… people like Graham Wood, who holds an annual fundraising event in Billingham called the Barrel Push, the guys at Hays Travel in Billingham and, of course, the team behind North East Ladies Day, who take it upon themselves to set targets to help raise vital funds for people they’ve never met. Having the support of your local community is just amazing. My parents have also been instrumental in keeping the charity going when I’m away. We still run it ourselves, but we hope to take on volunteers in the future, so that we can reach more young people in the region – and beyond.
Luxe is proud to be a sponsor of this year’s North East Ladies Day, which marks its 35th anniversary at Hardwick Hall, County Durham, on Wednesday 20th September. For more information, or to book tickets, visit: northeastladiesday.co.uk