Help to Raise Smiles This Christmas

Candlelighters, the Yorkshire-based charity for children with cancer and their families, is asking people for some help for Christmas.

The additional stresses this year have been overwhelming for some families, who have had to cope with changing hospital practices and government guidance, and often more financial pressure. Candlelighters has not hesitated to continue to offer emotional, practical and financial support – and the team is determined to bring some joy to the families at Christmas-time.

Isla and her family – mum Rachel, Dad Matt and brother Max, all know how it feels to have Candlelighters there for them. Isla, aged seven, was first diagnosed with cancer of the kidney in October 2019 and relapsed in June 2020.

Her grandmother, Ellen Atkinson, explained: “I’ll never forget the fear I felt that Saturday morning when Rachel ‘phoned me to say Isla had a swelling in her tummy. Within a couple of hours of that first phone call, she was on her way to Leeds Children’s Hospital and things quickly escalated. I remember feeling sick, sweaty – my head was spinning. My imagination and thoughts ran riot that first weekend and little sleep was had. Candlelighters became involved on the Monday and I vividly remember Rachel’s voice had changed when she phoned me telling me the support that was available.

Rachel told me how friendly everyone was at Candlelighters and how at ease they had all made her feel. She had been told of financial grants that would be available, which would help with travelling costs and well-deserved family treats. Isla played with on the ward whilst Rachel and Matt spoke to the doctors, Elaine (the dinner lady funded by Candlelighters on the Oncology Wards) provided home-from-home comforts: ice lollies, fruit shoots, sweets, crisps and so much more. As a grandparent, this has helped me tremendously – just knowing Isla has always been happy to go to the hospital and knowing the support has always been there for Rachel and Matthew. Isla recently spent over three weeks on the ward and Candlelighters supported the family tremendously, sitting with Isla whilst Matthew has a break, offering to do washing, and providing fun craft sessions.

Prior to COVID, I would visit Isla most days if she was on the ward. I really feel for the parents also unable to visit the ward, and children only having one parent with them, but understand why the restrictions are in place. Over lockdown, I’ve attended two grandparent virtual tea parties at Candlelighters which I’ve thoroughly enjoyed, and look forward to being able to return to The Square (Candlelighters’ family support centre) and spending time with others that “just know” and understand.

For anyone thinking of supporting Candlelighters by fundraising I would say do it – charities need our help more than ever before. Candlelighters helps keep those smiles shining on our amazing children’s faces and lifts the
practical and emotional strains from the parents’ shoulders. Every little
helps. For the children on the wards in the run up to Christmas and at Christmas, it’s safe to say the Candlelighters will be doing all they can to keep the place happy and fun.”

Candlelighters relies entirely on support from the community. If you would like to support Candlelighters this Christmas, you can find all the ways to do so on their website here, or by calling them on 0113 322 9283.

By supporting Candlelighters, you will be helping to make Christmas a little brighter for all the families and children currently battling childhood cancer across Yorkshire.

Photograph of Isla and Ellen provided by Candlelighters.

Leeds Living