Two of Northamptonshire’s best-loved charities are almost £50k better off thanks to a year of fundraising events held in honour of recently retired Saints player, Christian Day, writes Anna Murby.
Niamh’s Next Step, which was set up to help fight the rare childhood cancer, Neuroblastoma, and The Leon Barwell Foundation, which supports families where the adult is affected by cancer, were each presented with a cheque to the tune of £48,221 by the former second row after the club awarded him a Testimonial to mark his ten years’ dedication to Franklin’s Gardens.
The last twelve months have seen thousands of fans show their support for the much-loved lock, known affectionately as Daysy, in a variety of fun ways, whether generously buying tickets for fundraising dinners, saucy calendars and bobble hats, taking part in quiz nights or cheering along their favourite players at the end of year touch rugby festival.
Niamh’s Next Step was founded by Chris and Sam Curry from Wellingborough in memory of their daughter Niamh who died aged just five following an 18-month battle with Neuroblastoma. The charity proudly joint-funds the UK’s levy into a European network carrying out research into the disease and this additional pot will enable them to continue their vital work, as Chris explained: “Around a hundred cases are diagnosed each year and after witnessing what our darling Niamh went through in gruelling rounds of chemotherapy, surgery and radiotherapy, we just want to ensure that no other child or family has to endure that.
“We therefore can’t say a big enough thank you enough to all those who supported the testimonial events as the money will help us take the next step towards our ultimate goal – to conquer the disease once and for all” Chris added.
Those were sentiments echoed by the Barwell family, who set up The Leon Barwell Foundation following the death of the former Saints Chairman and local businessman after he lost his year and a half-long fight with cancer. After receiving the cheque, his widow Paula revealed how it would help to continue the legacy which they, as a family, set before his passing: “We were determined not to let cancer take over our lives but to make the most of the precious time we had left together, having fun, laughing and living life as best we could” explained Paula.
“The foundation now does that for other families, creating memories by funding amazing trips to the zoo or the theatre, or even enabling those in financial difficulty to buy Christmas presents for their children in order that they have something special by which to remember them.
“So, to those who contributed to Daysy’s fund, whether buying raffle tickets, joining the raucous carol singing at the Christmas concert or swinging a club at the golf day, we are eternally grateful for your generosity and please know you will have created the chance for many more families to have precious memories to treasure in their sadness and beyond” she enthused.
Christian, who has recently taken up his role as Player Liaison Officer with the Rugby Players’ Association, has a successful seventeen-year career on which to reflect, including captaining the England Under-21s, representing England Saxons and not to mention more than 220 appearances for the Saints, but says the Testimonial is one of the highlights: “Helping the Saints to the premiership title in 2014 has to rate as one of the best moments on the field but, off it, being able to present these two fantastic charities with their cheques makes me incredibly proud of what those of us who love the sport of rugby can achieve and, to them, I am incredibly grateful” explained Daysy.
“That includes my friends on the fundraising board, the many local businesses who sponsored the events throughout the year, including our four main supporters Aspers Casino, Carlsberg UK, GRS and Tool Station, but most of all to my amazing fans without whom the fundraising total wouldn’t have been the incredible figure it was” he added.
For more details of Niamh’s Next Step, including news of their forthcoming fundraising events or to make a donation, please visit www.nns.org.uk
Meanwhile you can find out more about The Leon Barwell Foundation and how you can support their efforts by visiting www.leonbarwellfoundation.org
Picture by Andy Taylor