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Willow Foundation: helping seriously ill young people

PUBLISHED: 16:12 08 March 2017 | UPDATED: 16:12 08 March 2017

Bob Wilson with his daughter Anna

Bob Wilson with his daughter Anna

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A wonderful giver of hope, cherished memories and relief during dark days, the Willow Foundation has helped thousands of seriously ill young people. It aims, with your help, to support many thousands more

Monika Luberda (left) from Stevenage enjoying her special day at Peppa Pig World with her familyMonika Luberda (left) from Stevenage enjoying her special day at Peppa Pig World with her family

FOR over 18 years the Willow Foundation has provided more than 13,000 special days to 16 to 40-year-olds who are seriously ill – giving them and those around them memories to treasure.

The charity was founded in 1999 by former Arsenal goalkeeper and TV presenter Bob Wilson and his wife Megs, who lived in Hertfordshire for many years, as a lasting memorial to their daughter, Anna, who died of a rare cancer, aged just 31. Anna battled the disease for five years and during this time she and those closest to her enjoyed some of their most memorable moments together by creating days that were a focus for quality time and that provided a much-needed distraction from the realities of living with a terminal illness.

Meg said of the experience: ‘Laughter and smiles go a long way to repairing so much of what is damaged by serious illness.’

Willow’s Jenny Davies said the charity aims to replicate the benefits of Anna’s special days by providing positive, motivating and uplifting experiences for seriously ill young adults.

‘Plenty of charities already support young children and the elderly, so Bob and Megs chose to support Anna’s age group. For some of those we support, their special day is the opportunity to return a little normality to their lives. For others, it is the last chance to fulfil a dream. All find it a life-affirming experience that can lift spirits, reunify families and be a source of strength when needed most.’

Willow will provide 1,400 special days this year to terminally ill young people. On average, each special day is attended by four people, meaning around 5,600 people will have something positive to look forward to during a time when a normal life is almost impossible. One 40-year-old who was put forward for a special day admitted he almost cried, saying, ‘In what has been a dark six months, this charity showed us there is light.’

In 2019 the charity celebrates its 20th anniversary and has set a goal of providing 2,000 special days during the year. If you would like to help them achieve this, they hold regular fundraising events throughout the year including London Football Awards, Willow 10k and the Hertfordshire 100 cycling event.

The football awards on March 2 have become a major event, attended by footballing greats past and present. For information and tickets visit londonfootballawards.org.

For further information on the charity or to offer gifts that can be used for special days or as auction prizes, visit willowfoundation.org.uk. To find out about volunteering with the charity, email info@willowfoundation.org.uk

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