A brave Horsham schoolgirl who has endured a tough battle with cancer was a guest of honour at an awards party on Saturday.
The circus-themed Cancer Research UK Kids and Teens Star Awards party, held at The Roof Gardens in Kensington, saluted the courage of all youngsters coping with cancer.
Ellie Mae Wile-Dunne, seven, was diagnosed with acute lymphoblastic leukaemia in August 2012. She was one of 20 children from across the UK who came together as special ambassadors to represent around 600 youngsters who have received Cancer Research UK Kids and Teens Star Awards in the last year.
A statement from Cancer Research UK said: “She enjoyed an afternoon of crafts and games, honing her circus skills with activities including plate spinning, juggling and tossing diabolos, as well as ‘clowning around’ in a giant ball pit.
“Ellie Mae and her family also met party host Stacey Solomon, before receiving a medal from the presenter and reality television star during a special presentation ceremony.
“The day’s entertainment was rounded off with surprise performances from Britain’s Got Talent winners Ashleigh and Pudsey, comedy double act Johnny and Inel, and the cast of Horrible Histories live on tour, as well as Milkshake presenters, Derek Moran and Amy Thompson, plus their good friend Milkshake Monkey. Nanny Plum from children’s TV show Ben and Holly’s Little Kingdom also made a special appearance.
“Ellie Mae has spent a physically and emotionally draining couple of years battling cancer since her diagnosis.
“While fighting her illness she also succumbed to E.coli and pneumonia and she has had to learn to walk again following her cancer treatment which severely damaged her bones.
“Ellie Mae was diagnosed after one of her aunts, who worked as a receptionist at the local hospital, recognised the tell-tale signs for leukaemia and advised her mum Nikki to take her daughter for a blood test.”
Nikki said: “She noticed signs such as tiny red spots around her eyes and on her nose, she also noticed how easily her skin bruised after wearing a helmet while she was on a scooter.”
Nikki and Ellie Mae’s dad Jim took their little girl to hospital for a blood test and she was admitted within the hour.
Nikki said: “We presumed they might say she had an iron deficiency but nothing prepared us for the news we received.
“Never in a million years did we expect to hear that.
“That day we had been running around a farm looking at the animals and now we were frantically trying to find a bed for our little girl in a cancer ward.”
Jim added: “Nothing can prepare you for that moment. Shock, dread, fear, anguish and desperation were just some of the words that hit us and lived with us over the next months.
“We felt like we were being driven in a car we had no control over.”
The Star Awards are part of the Cancer Research UK Kids and Teens fundraising campaign, which aims to accelerate research to find kinder treatments and cures for children, teens and young adults with cancer.
Thanks to the generosity of its supporters, the charity has helped to transform the outlook for children with the disease. Around three-quarters now survive their cancer beyond ten years compared with more than a third in the 1970s.
Ellie Mae, who was invited on stage to perform a trick with Pudsey the dog, said: “I’ve had lots and lots of fun and really enjoyed meeting Stacey.”
Jim, Ellie Mae’s dad, said: “It’s been wonderful seeing how completely relaxed Ellie Mae has been today and it’s felt like a big family. It’s been an amazing day and she’ll have lots of equally amazing memories to share with her friends and family.”
Cancer Research UK held the event in partnership with TK Maxx, which they described as the biggest corporate supporter of research into beating children’s cancers in the UK.
Lynn Daly, Cancer Research UK Kids and Teens spokeswoman for Sussex, said: “It is a privilege to be able to recognise the courage of youngsters like Ellie Mae. She is a true ‘star’.
“Cancer has a devastating impact on children, forcing them to show incredible bravery beyond their years, so it was fantastic to see Ellie Mae’s smile light up as she took part in our circus-themed party.
“Our mission to save the lives of more children in Sussex and across the UK, relies on every hour of research, every pound raised and every person who gets involved.
“So we hope as many people as possible will be inspired to support the Cancer Research UK Kids & Teens campaign and help bring forward the day when all children survive.”
Jo Murphy, Assistant Vice President of Corporate Responsibility for TK Maxx, said: “The Cancer Research UK Kids and Teens Star Awards are an amazing opportunity to honour and celebrate the incredible bravery of children who have faced a diagnosis of cancer and their hugely supportive family and friends.
“Thousands more people are alive today thanks to Cancer Research UK’s work into children’s cancers, so TK Maxx is very proud to be supporting the awards and helping to raise vital awareness and funds.”
TK Maxx’s support of the Kids and Teens Star Awards is part of a wider partnership with Cancer Research UK which, since 2004, has raised more than £25 million for life-saving research through stock and cash donations. Around £21.5 million of this total directly funds work into children’s cancers.
The retailer’s Give Up Clothes for Good campaign encourages the public to drop off any bags of unwanted clothes, accessories and quality homeware at any TK Maxx all year round to help beat children’s cancers sooner.
To donate or fundraise in support of Cancer Research UK Kids and Teens, visit cruk.org/kidsandteens
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