Candlelighters, a charity supporting children with cancer across the Yorkshire region, is urging people to get involved with its fundraising and awareness campaign, Pink It Up, from 28th June – 5th July. The charity offers a variety of support for the families of children with cancer and serious haematological disorders including emotional, practical, and financial support, and relies entirely on funding from the community in order to provide its services.
One family that has benefitted from these services is that of Ralph Tasker, a ten year old boy from Harrogate, who was diagnosed with T-cell lymphoma at the age of six in 2017.
Not only did the diagnosis come as a complete shock to his family, as Ralph had always been in good health, it marked the start of three and a half years of gruelling treatment which would make him very unwell and immobile almost straight away. Ralph’s mum, Cleo, said, ‘Looking back, those first few weeks were so frightening and traumatic, it all feels like a bit of a blur… every moment of the three and a half years I worried I was going to lose him.’
Ralph received his treatment at Leeds Children’s Hospital, one of less than two dozen Principal Treatment Centres in the UK which specialise in treatment for children’s cancer, and one of only two in Yorkshire. Cleo and Ralph’s dad, Thornton, were forced to take turns staying with Ralph and caring for their three daughters back at home, who were upset at the family being split up. In and amongst this anxiety and upset, Ralph’s dad, who owns his own business, also had to try and fit in some work where he could in order to keep both his business and the family finances ticking over.
Candlelighters were able to support the family with financial grants in those first few weeks to ease the burden of mounting costs at a very stressful time. Throughout Ralph’s time in hospital, the family accessed play support and resources to keep him entertained, practical and emotional support, presents and activities on birthdays and Christmas and more, funded by the charity. Cleo adds, ‘It’s Candlelighters that made the ward a warm happy place, which we were proud to call our second home’.
As well as support on the ward, the Tasker family, including Ralph’s sisters, have all benefitted from peer support groups, talking therapy sessions to support mental health, and a variety of adapted online support throughout the COVID-19 pandemic – all of which was funded by donations to Candlelighters.
Pink It Up is the flagship fundraising campaign for the charity, which has taken place during the summer since 2019 and sees supporters taking on a whole range of pink-themed challenges and activities to raise funds and awareness for children with cancer in Yorkshire. In previous years, supporters have joined in with everything from pink bake sales and dress down days, to pink street parties. Local shops have dressed their windows in pink and even buildings across Yorkshire including Bradford Alhambra, Leeds First Direct Arena and Knaresborough Castle have lit up pink.
Chief Executive Officer of Candlelighters, Emily Wragg, said:
The families we meet and support are facing the most unimaginably difficult time of their lives, so anything that we can do to make their journey even slightly easier, we will try to do. It’s important that we not only raise the vital funds we need to provide this support, but also to raise awareness for what our families go through and just how deeply it impacts them for the rest of their lives. Last year was an incredibly difficult year for us, our families needed us more than ever and while we were able to adapt our services to be there for them during the pandemic, we lost many of our income sources, with supporters unable to fundraise or donate to us in their usual ways. We’re really hopeful that during Pink It Up this year, people and businesses across Yorkshire are able to support us again and we are so incredibly thankful for any support that people can give.
Ralph has now finished his treatment and Cleo tells us she and him have ‘big plans’ to do their own fundraising for Candlelighters once COVID restrictions have been lifted. She adds, ‘I cannot put into words just how thankful we are to Candlelighters for everything they did to make our journey over the last four years a better one…It’s so important during this extraordinarily difficult time that families living with childhood cancer can continue to receive this much-needed support.
Pink It Up will take place from 28th June – 5th July 2021. If you’d like to get involved with Candlelighters’ Pink It Up and support families like Ralph’s from across Yorkshire, you can find all the information you need here https://www.candlelighters.org.uk/pink-it-up/.