FRIENDS and family danced until they dropped on Saturday evening at a black tie ball in aid of Little Havens Hospice.
On Saturday 15th March, guests at a special charity ball at the New Windmill Hall in Upminster helped to raise over £2,500 for Little Havens Hospice in memory of local teenager Sam Ryder from Havering. In February 2003, Sam, who was ten years old at the time, was diagnosed with a rare brain tumour and was given a year to eighteen months to live.
Sam’s mum, Sue said, “I knew every day that Sam woke up looking forward to all sorts of things. I wasn’t going to take that away from him. I thought, ‘He’s still here. Let’s live for the moment. I will not wait for my child to die.’ He was a social boy with such a dry sense of humour and he just liked being active. He went to secondary school for a while. It was my attempt to give him a normal life but he really wasn’t well. He was very weak at times and by this point he was fitting about thirty times a day.”
Sam and his family were referred to Little Havens, the children’s hospice which cares for children with life-limiting illnesses from across Essex.
Sue added, “I felt going to Little Havens was a slippery slope, which is ridiculous to think that now. It was just like a holiday camp but calm and peaceful as well and we could spend proper time together.”
Sue continued to care for Sam at home, with the support of a carer and regular respite breaks at Little Havens but by Christmas 2006, it had become too much to cope with.
“Sam had had enough. I called an ambulance and they took us to Little Havens. He needed to be there. It was such a relief. I was physically and mentally exhausted. I am a stubborn mother and kept thinking ‘I can do it, I can do it.’ But then the care team took over and Sam was out of pain. I thanked God I had Little Havens and I honestly don’t know what I would have done or how I would have coped without it.”
On the morning of 31st December, Sam died peacefully in his sleep, with his Mum cuddling him.
“I felt so safe at Little Havens. I didn’t have to pretend. When your child dies, it’s like your heart has been ripped out. He had been so brave. Everyone at Little Havens is just lovely, and so charming. I loved them all. I don’t want people to forget Sam, he’s my baby. It’s so unreal because I miss him so much.”
Sue’s friend, Debbie Lovell, 54 from Hornchurch decided to organise a ball in honour of Sam and to raise money for the hospice which became such a big part of their lives.
Guests were treated to a three course meal, entertainment and bid on prizes in a fundraising auction with thanks to local businesses that generously donated prizes, especially Upminster Jewellery Workshop and Beaux Bangles of Upminster, and also to Joe O’Sullivan, Sam’s godfather’s son, who donated prizes including afternoon tea for four on a Yacht in St Catherines Dock, a luxury Thorntons hamper and signed sports memorabilia.
Debbie said, “I was invited to the Little Havens Hospice for a tour, it is such an amazing place. It was a privilege to organise this event in Sam’s memory. I would like to thank my staff at Emerson Catering for all their hard work on the night and everyone involved in organising this event for the hospice.”
Little Havens helps families who’ve been told there is no cure for their child’s illness by providing respite breaks, managing pain and caring for children at the end of their lives. Because the care is free of charge, the charity must raise £46,000 every week which is only possible because of the support of the community.
To find out more about fundraising please visit havenshospices.org.uk or call the Fundraising Team on 01702 220305.
How sad but also heart-warming and inspiring.