At Saturday's home game against FC United of Manchester, the club is supporting a fantastic local charity, the Henry Allen Trust. The trust has a strong connection with our football club and we want it to be a special day that raises awareness of the work the charity does, raises money for it and provides a memorable experience for everybody involved. Read here the personal story told by Brackley Town supporter and volunteer Ben Wood:
If the face, or the name, seem familiar, it may be because 4 or 5 years ago I was a regular at St James Park. I even helped Steve, and his predecessor, Brian, on the matchday programme for a while. And that is how the partnership between The Henry Allen Trust and Brackley Town has come about, but this is why…
My daughter, Maisie was born in November 2015. I stopped coming to football on a Saturday to spend my weekends with my new family. I’m so glad I did. Maisie was happy and healthy until, in March 2018, we saw some worrying signs and were sent by the GP to have blood tests that same day. By the early hours of the next morning we had been told she had leukaemia; we transferred to the John Radcliffe Children’s Hospital where the diagnosis was confirmed as Acute Myeloid Leukaemia (AML) and within 48 hours she had started chemotherapy, aged just 2 years and 3 months.
We spent most of the subsequent 5 months in either the John Radcliffe or Stoke Mandeville hospitals, confined to not only a ward, but more often than not, a room, to prevent the chance of infection taking hold. All was looking good – Maisie had been in remission since her first round of chemo and we were days away from being discharged. Then everything changed. A tumour, which was undetectable 3 weeks prior, was discovered on her brain. Despite the strongest course of chemotherapy available, it had grown so aggressively and quickly, that it was inoperable. Knowing the only possible outcome, we spent the last few weeks together, as a family, in the Helen House hospice in Oxford. They are times we both treasure and find hard to think about. Our only child, Maisie, passed away peacefully on 2 September 2018, less than 6 months since her diagnosis, and just a few weeks after we had expected to be at home, leukaemia-free.
In the time that has followed, our family received wonderful support from many charities, and chief among them was The Henry Allen Trust (THAT), itself set up by the parents of a child lost to cancer. Henry was four, and was treated on the same ward as Maisie, only in his case for an aggressive form of cancer - high risk neuroblastoma - which affects nerve tissue. Henry’s wish, which he asked of his parents, Dawn and Mark, was to ‘help other children and families’, and they have been doing that for the last five years. The Henry Allen Trust exists to support local oncology children from ages 0-18, and their families. “We have promised that the Trust will be about ‘Henry's family bringing happiness to your family’” is how Dawn explains it.
Alongside fundraising and providing support for families throughout the treatment of their child, and beyond, THAT also strives to grant wishes and treats for oncology children, from simply delivering Easter eggs and Christmas gifts to the hospital wards; to providing days out, holidays and experiences to families, allowing them to create cherished memories.
There is no explaining how precious a gift that is to a family doing its best to stay strong and support their child through their treatment, whatever the ultimate outcome. For us, it was Dawn and The Henry Allen Trust who came to us and created a beautiful framed cast of Maisie’s hands and feet – the final time we would have the chance to do anything like that, and something that in all the emotional turmoil and trauma we would never have thought to attempt to arrange. This is why we approached the club to support us in not only fundraising at the game against FC United, but to provide an experience for some local children that may not get the chance to do anything like this again.
The mascots that you will see for that game have all been supplied by the Trust and have all, in some way, been affected by childhood cancer. We hope that not only will you help us raise some money for the Henry Allen Trust on the day through our bucket collections and charity tins in the bar, or by buying a 50/50 raffle ticket, but also by giving those mascots the biggest cheer as they lead the team out.
And we are delighted that patron of the Henry Allen Trust, renowned soprano singer Emily Haig (singer of national anthems before cup finals at Wembley, at Twickenham and at the British Grand Prix at Silverstone, amongst other world class venues) will be performing before the game and at half-time… something I am sure many of those attending St James Park will have never seen here before!
We are thrilled to partner with Brackley Town for this game, and we are honoured that the club has given over the game to allow the Trust to raise funds and provide this experience to some very deserving children. Please help us make it a wonderful occasion and to raise some money for the most worthy of charities.
Help us remember Maisie, forever two, and Henry, forever four, and all the other children that have gained their angel wings far too early in their little lives. We look forward to your support on 27 April. Thank you.