My Hertfordshire Life - Bob Wilson
PUBLISHED: 11:20 10 February 2014 | UPDATED: 11:32 10 February 2014
The Herts-based Willow Foundation will provide its 10,000th Special Day for seriously ill young people this month. We talk to founder, former Arsenal goalkeeper Bob Wilson, about the charity's work
Why is the charity important?
Our daughter was 27 when she was unfortunate enough to be diagnosed with a very rare cancer. We learnt during her five years of living with cancer that the 16 to 40 age group was neglected. There are many wonderful children’s charities and the hospice movement is amazing for all ages, but until Willow was founded by my wife Megs and myself, there was no charity looking after the interests of seriously ill young adults. Special Days offer a positive focus away from treatment and the drudgery of appointments and hospitalisation and give the beneficiaries something to look forward to, enjoy with friends and family and create lasting memories.
Did you ever envisage the charity reaching so many people?
Willow was only ever intended to be a local charity serving the local community, but the medical professionals found that the Willow Special Days offered so much more than just one day – they offered quality of life and time at a time when patients most needed it. They work alongside conventional medication to alleviate stress, create a feeling of well being, provide motivation and boost confidence. More and more areas in the country wanted to be included and very soon Willow became a national charity.
You have done a great deal to help others. What has the experience given you?
Megs and I feel very humbled by the generosity of the British public. We never cease to be amazed that so many people want to support the work we do. And not just through donations. There are many loyal supporters who continue to raise much-needed funds through events they organise on our behalf. We meet so many wonderful and interesting people and enjoy hearing from those who have had special days and the difference it has made to their lives.
How can people help?
By spreading the word about the positive effects of a Special Day and the difference it can make to someone who is living with serious and life-threatening illness. We have many volunteers who help us in the office or at our events who we could not manage without. There are others who organise their own fundraising events or collections. As well as monetary donations, we also welcome gifts in kind that can be used for Special Days or auction prizes to raise money – tickets to pop concerts or sporting matches, for example. Support from companies is also essential and many organisations support a particular charity each year. As we have no statutory funding, we could not exist without donations from the general public and companies who support the work that we do.
What are Willow’s plans for the future?
In the 14 years that Willow has been in existence it has organised 10,000 Special Days – days that have ranged from weekends away with family, pop concerts, sporting matches, theme parks and celebratory parties. We intend to continue to offer our service to many more young adults who are struggling to cope with the trauma and effects that serious illness brings. But we can only do that through the support and generosity of those who are moved by the work that we do. If you can help us in any small way to provide the next 10,000 Special Days, please do get in touch with us.
Find more information at willowfoundation.org.uk or call 01707 259777.