A CHARITY set up in memory of an eight-year-old girl who died from a rare form of cancer has hit the £2million fund-raising milestone.
The Ollerenshaw’s lives changed forever in September 2006. It was only a few weeks off daughter Molly’s fourth birthday, when Rachel and Tim noticed the first signs of her illness.
While on a family day out Molly became increasingly uncomfortable and the situation quickly escalated when, the next day, she found herself in A&E. A scan later detected a tumour in her left kidney.
What followed was the worst possible news – it had been diagnosed as a rare kind of kidney cancer called a Wilms tumour and she was admitted to Birmingham Children’s Hospital to begin a six-month course of chemotherapy before undergoing an operation to remove the kidney.
She was given the all-clear and life began to return to normal for the Claverdon School pupil.
But just 18 months later the cancer was back, this time on her bowel. More chemotherapy followed and the tumour was again removed, but Molly struggled to cope with her treatment the second time around.
It was during this time Molly joined the CLIC Sargent Youth Advisory Group to help improve the lives of children with cancer, In 2010 she narrated an Ardmann Studios short animated film designed as a guide for coping with radiotherapy. It is being widely used today in the UK and overseas to help patients.
Free from cancer for a few more months, May 2010 brought the news the family had dreaded – the cancer had returned again to Molly’s liver.
And despite a further operation, a stem cell transplant and a further aggressive round of chemotherapy, another fourth tumour appeared the following March.
It was to be just two-and-a-half months until Molly lost her brave battle and slipped away at the family home in Hatton Park in June 2011, with mum and dad by her side.
Tim and Rachel had spent a large part of those five years in and out of hospital and soon realised many of the patients they met did not benefit from the emotional or financial support they had received for Molly and her siblings, Ben and Maeve.
Driven by this – and a determination to keep Molly’s legacy alive – Molly Olly’s Wishes was officially born in September 2011.
The charity has come a long way in eight years, and the £2million milestone is one of which Rachel and Tim are justifiably proud.
Rachel said: “We take massive comfort from helping other children and their families in their dark days and that keeps Molly in all our hearts.
“What is particularly poignant for me is that the donation that took us to the £2m was from a family that the charity had supported who wanted to give back. It is a privilege to help and I want to acknowledge all those individuals and companies who have enabled us.
“I think Molly Olly’s is part of a big jigsaw with other people like CLIC Sargent, the community nursing teams, the hospital – you put us all together and we can help get people through.
“The hospital are brilliant at helping you and looking after you and getting you through medically, CLIC Sargent will come in and be that link between home and hospital, but it’s more of the emotional support that we will offer to people. It’s about putting all those pieces together.”
Having gained charity status in 2012, Molly Olly’s has so far helped more than 1,500 children from newborn to age 18 by granting individual wishes.
The mascot of the charity is a therapeutic toy lion called Olly The Brave who has his own Hickman line and a detachable mane that helps explain and normalise the hair loss that comes with many types of chemotherapy. These form part of an Olly the Brave pack given to 40 hospitals across the UK along with a book Olly the Brave and the Wigglys.
There are now three books in the series, all written and illustrated by local author Diane Maybey. The first two, which were Highly Commended by the British Medical Association at the 2017 Patient Information Awards, will be followed in March by the latest instalment which aims to help children who struggle after treatment to return to a ‘normal’ life.
One of the charity’s proudest achievements came in April last year with the funding of the first Molly Olly consultant in paediatric palliative medicine at Birmingham Children’s Hospital.
Rachel said: “The hospital did not have a palliative paediatrician and had been trying to get funding for the post for some time. This is a massive achievement for a small charity like ours.”
Some 30 children a week in the UK are given a cancer diagnosis, and more are told that they have a life-threatening or terminal illness in one form or another. Many of these, especially those diagnosed with leukaemia will be under five years-old.
Tim Ollerenshaw said: “One of my fears when Molly died is that she would be forgotten but every day she lives on with the help the charity provides to others. Molly was full of smiles, positivity and thoughtfulness and incredibly determined. The charity aims to mirror those traits in our work.”
The fund-raising continues in earnest for 2019 with a host of events already planned or in the pipeline.
Visit www.mollyolly.co.uk for further information or to donate.
* The charity is holding a ball at Birmingham’s Park Regis Hotel on Friday March 22. Tickets are £35 each including arrival drink, canapes, three-course meal, disco, raffle and auction plus sweets table and photo booth. For tickets email [email protected]