A young woman who had a rare blood cancer as a little girl is to give an inspirational talk at a fundraising ball being held in memory of a Chester schoolgirl who died from a brain tumour.
Anna Culshaw will be a special guest at the 1960s themed ‘Groovy Kind of Ball' at Chester Racecourse Pavilion on Saturday, April 21, in aid of Nicola’s Fund.
The charity was launched 12 years ago by the parents of much-loved teenager, Nicola Riley, who died of a brain tumour in 2005.
Nicola was a pupil of The Hammond School thanks to her natural gifts for dance and drama. A group from the school will be performing at the event.
Nicola’s bravery and generous spirit inspired her parents, Debbie and Steve, to carry out their daughter’s wishes and set up a charity treating seriously ill children to much needed holidays with their families.
Steve, who works with Hadlow Edwards, said his daughter was its driving force: “This really was Nicola’s initiative, we’re simply following through her wishes. Before she died she told us she wanted to create a fund to help children going through the hardship of illness.
“She’d be so proud of its success and to see how many children benefit.”
The charity, which has raised more than £600,000 to date, has helped about 650 children and their families, sending them on holidays to its two caravans in Porthmadog, North Wales, and adventure breaks at Centre Parcs.
Hadlow Edwards director Medwyn Edwards a patron of Nicola’s Fund said: “It’s our business philosophy to give something back to the community which supports us. We help several charities and that’s very important to us.
“Nicola’s Fund is particularly close to our hearts as we’ve known Steve and Debbie professionally and as friends for many years.
“The work they’ve put in and the original idea for the fund – which came from Nicola herself – have always impressed us.
“The Nicola’s Fund balls are always a fantastic evening out which we all look forward to and so I would urge people to think about getting a table together and coming to enjoy the evening.”
Anna Culshaw, now 20 of Carrog, near Corwen, was the first recipient of a Nicola’s Fund holiday when she was fighting a rare form of blood cancer.
She will be a special guest at the ball which is sponsored by Hadlow Edwards Wealth Management. She will deliver a talk about her experience of Nicola’s Fund and how it arranged an unforgettable getaway for her family at Centre Parcs.
The memories of her holiday are very special: “I was only about seven and we had to stay away from busy areas as I was dangerously prone to picking up infections. So we stuck to quieter activities, playing crown green bowls and cycling.
“But what I treasure most is how close it brought me to my brother.
“It was a genuine bonding experience for our family. Because of my illness and all the medications I was on, our time revolved around hospitals. We couldn’t do many normal activities that families do, which was especially hard on my brother who was only 12 or 13.
“But on that holiday in a new environment we just focused on being together, having fun. My brother and I are incredibly close now and I really believe that holiday started the process of making our relationship as solid as it is today.”
Anna was an Air Cadet with 1918 Ruthin squadron from 2011, has flown in a Hawk Jet and is now a volunteer civilian instructor (CI) with 1251 Berwyn squadron.
Despite her high flying escapades the idea of being centre stage makes her nervous. So she’s glad her brother will be at the ball with parents Eddie and Sian Culshaw, and Joe’s girlfriend Ashleigh, along with Ashleigh’s mother Beverly.
She said: “I’m terrified of public speaking but for this I have to overcome nerves. Their support and knowing Steve and Debbie are there, will make it much easier.
“The cause is so important and I really want to tell people what a huge difference these holidays make in the lives of children facing tough times.”
Steve said: “We’re so pleased Anna can be there and to see her enjoying a full, active life after all she’s been through. If Nicola were here to put into words how much the holidays mean to families, I’m sure her speech would be very much like Anna’s, full of hope.”
About 320 tickets have been sold to the ball, including to many of Nicola’s former friends from Hammond School, Chester, where she was a talented dance, music and drama student.
Nicola passed away on April 20, 2005, five days before her 15th birthday. A ball in her honour has been held every two years since, with the 2016 one marking the fund’s 10th anniversary.
Steve said: “Parents of children who are so ill face practical as well as emotional burdens which makes going away very strenuous. So we keep our holidays as stress-free as possible. Our two caravans in Wales and the Center Parcs breaks are perfect, offering relaxing, fun times in a simple environment.”
The charity currently needs £10,000 for decking alongside its caravans, plus some additional furniture, as well as continuing to pay the full cost of holidays for families and ‘spending money’ while they are away.
For tickets to the ball and/or to donate, visit www.nicolasfund.co.uk .