March 12 2014 Latest news:
Friday, December 27, 2013
A charity inspired by a Great Yarmouth teenager has this year provided a fund of happy memories and joyful holiday snaps for 19 families from across the UK caring for a sick child.
The caravan at Haven Seashore in the resort is empty for the winter but the visitors’ book is full of positive comments about the benefits of the treat trips, provided free of charge by the Leah Wilby Foundation and supported by local fundraisers.
For Leah’s mother, Debbie Wilby, who set up Leah’s Lounge in a bid to carry on her daughter’s caring legacy, it has been a whirlwind year buoyed by the support of the community.
In the last 12 months people have jumped out of planes, hosted fairs and car boot sales, and gone the extra mile for money to keep the charity going and on top of its annual running costs which total £6,500.
Already four families have booked for next summer, pointing to a third successful season for the adapted unit which helps families to put illness aside for a few days and live a “normal” life – chiming with Leah’s ideas about defying cancer and having a happy time.
Despite spending almost half of her 15 years in treatment Leah’s personal crusade was to carry on regardless – to the point where few people knew how ill she was. Her death came as a shock to many.
“The support we have had from the public has been unbelievable,” Mrs Wilby said. “Leah died on June 13 and every time something happens on the 13th I turn it into a positive so I knew 2013 was going to be a good year. It was quite ambitious and I did wonder at times if it was going to work and if anybody would use the facility. Leah would be so pleased because she loved helping people.
“The feedback from visitors has been so lovely. It gets them away from the clinical scene for a week and they can just have quality time together.”
As well as being the nominated charity for several local organisations including Palmers Department Store and St Nicholas Priory Junior School, where Leah was a pupil, the charity has attracted the attention of the national media and celebrities, including Katie Price, who said she was touched by Leah’s tragic story.
Mrs Wilby greets all her visitors and keeps in touch with many families – which can be sad as news filters back about youngsters who enjoyed a stay at Leah’s Lounge but later died.
“There was one little boy who we knew was terminal when they booked. He was only four years old and had Neuroblastoma which Leah had and since his holiday has sadly died. His mum contacted me after his death and thanked us so much for allowing them to stay with us and giving them some happy memories.”
Families coping with a sick child often face a drain on finances, Mrs Wilby said, with time off work and transport costs to specialist hospitals so having a worry-free break was important.
“It’s just a little way of giving back to people and helping them at this hard time in their lives,” she said.
To donate visit www.leahwilbyfoundation.co.uk