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The Fletcher's Fund Story
My husband and I are the supremely proud parents of Fletcher. Fletcher sadly died in March 2017 of a type of childhood cancer, so rare it did not even have a name. He was just about to turn 2 when he died.
He was beautiful, enigmatic toddler, one that would leave an impact on a person, even after a brief meeting. He is loved and missed beyond measure.
He lives on, though, through his legacy, Fletcher’s Fund – a registered charity that my husband and I, friends and family decided to set up in his memory.
Our mission is to enable families to make memories together through play and having fun. This will also enable the children and their families to experience precious moments of ‘normality’, which are too often taken for granted by most of us.
We provide grants to families affected by childhood cancer to enable them to buy play equipment or fund days out with their children. We also provide the play teams in the Children’s Oncology wards in Leeds Children’s Hospital (where Fletcher was treated), Great North Children’s Hospital in Newcastle and Royal Manchester Children’s Hospital with Arts and Crafts bags to be given to children in isolation.
We make around 10 grants of £100 a month, and this is growing every month. We work throughout England and Wales and Scotland.
Since receiving official charitable status from the Charity Commission on 11 May 2017, we have made 148 grants to families of children with cancer throughout England and Wales – £14,800 made in charitable donations to these families. The families have used their grants for days out to zoos, country parks, photography shoots, to buy garden play equipment and even – one young man – to eat in a Michelin Star restaurant! The feedback from the families is wonderful, and we are reaching more and more families as awareness grows of Fletcher’s Fund.
The biggest project to date is Isolation Arts and Crafts Bags. Fletcher spent an awful lot of time in isolation in hospital, and upon founding the charity, we knew that we wanted to work with the Paediatric Oncology Wards to help support the provision of the play teams, who were vital to care Fletcher received.
I met with the play team on ward 31, Leeds Children Hospital (where Fletcher was looked after) and together we devised the idea of producing Arts and Craft bags to give to children when they are in isolation. Isolated children cannot leave their room and cannot have too many visitors (if any).
The bags are full of the usual Arts and Crafts items, as well as a craft kit and book for the child and a set of headphones, a notebook, and a biro pen for the parents. The bags have a budget of £10 each and are split into 4 ages ranges and are packed with appropriate items, according to the childhood development stages. The idea is to provide Art Therapy to the child to alleviate boredom, and to be used a distraction tool whilst undergoing treatment.
The project was launched on Wards 31 (Paediatric Oncology ward) and ward 33 (Paediatric Bone Marrow Transplant Unit) in Leeds Children Hospital in September 2017 and then launched into Ward 4 (Paediatric Oncology ward) and Ward 3 (Paediatric Bone Marrow Transplant Unit) in Great North Children’s Hospital in Newcastle in January 2018 and Royal Manchester Children’s Hospital, Ward 84 in January 2019. To date we have donated 1025 bags to the three units,
The hope is to expand this project into other Paediatric Oncology Units until they are working in all 18 units in England, Wales and Scotland.
We recently expanded the bag project to create Sensory and Heuristic Bags for small babies receiving stem and bone marrow transplants. This is currently a bespoke project for Leeds whilst they (and us!) trial it to see if it is beneficial. The bags themselves are made from oilcloth as they had to be wipeable, and the contents are all either able to be cleaned thoroughly or used once and thrown away. This is due to the very high levels of infection control that we must stick to, due to the patients being so young, and having no immune system at all. The contents are all sensory and heuristic in their nature. (Heuristic items involve the children / babies exploring a variety of natural and household items independently). We currently have 5 bags being trialled in Leeds Children Hospital, Ward 32, with the idea being that they will keep the bags and what contents they can, and we will replenish the other contents as needed. If it is successful, we will look to roll it out to other units. Each bag cost £15.
We then developed Teenager Bags – Boredom Buster Bags. These are for children and young people from 13-18 years of age; and promote both art therapy and self-care. Unlike the other bag projects, these are gendered as we had to be aware of the self-care needs of the young men and women receiving them. Each bag costs £20.
In total, we have over 2300 bags.
Fletcher’s Fund is a small charity – run by dedicated trustees and a small team of hardworking volunteers – all making up Team Fletcher. We have small overheads; and are committed to keeping overheads as low as possible and to be as transparent as possible. We are dedicated to spending every penny wisely and to giving every family they help they personal touch. Every family we help matters to Fletcher’s Fund, and we often go on to develop a long-lasting relationship with the family. We consistently go above and beyond to help and assist the families as much as possible.
We are a small charity, but we are mighty and have huge ambitions to help as many kids with cancer as possible throughout the whole of the UK, to really make a difference to every child with cancer, and to support all 18 paediatric oncology wards in the country. We also have plans to set up support groups, both face to face, and online to support the mental health of the families.
Every single penny matters to us, and we are incredibly appreciative and grateful for every amount of money that is donated, for all the donations we receive and all the support we get.
Being a small charity means that we can work with our supporters, volunteer, corporate partnerships, and our beneficiaries in a variety of ways, being as hands on as you like. We are always happy to meet with people to tell our story and plan ways to work together.
With warm regards