For nearly three decades, Starlight Children’s Foundation has been granting the wishes of seriously and terminally ill children and young people. The treatments and procedures that these children have to undergo can be difficult, painful and frightening, and sometimes just making sure they have something to distract them from their condition or time spent in hospital can make a world of difference.
That’s why, a little over a year ago, storage retailer BiGDUG started using Pennies to raise money for Starlight. Not only are customers shopping online with BiGDUG invited to round up their purchases to the nearest pound in aid of Starlight but the company matches all those donations too. This means even more funds to help grant the inspiring wishes of children and young people like Heidi.
Heidi Smith from Cranford was born with a rare immune disorder called autoimmune lymphoproliferative syndrome type 1A, or ALPS for short. One of the effects of the condition is an increased risk of developing lymphomas and in April 2013 Heidi was diagnosed with Hodgkin lymphoma, a form of cancer.
To fight the disease, Heidi had to undergo an intensive course of chemotherapy but despite the gruelling treatment, she remained positive and upbeat throughout. In February this year, Starlight was delighted to grant her wish – to swim with dolphins in Florida.
Starlight arranged the trip to coincide with Heidi’s birthday and the day before she turned nineteen, Heidi and her parents, sisters and brother flew from London Gatwick to Orlando for a week-long stay. While in Florida, Heidi and her family got to make the most of the local attractions and amazing wildlife, but the highlight of the trip was the visit to Discovery Cove on Heidi’s birthday, a park world-renowned for the experiences it offers families wishing to swim with dolphins.
“I just want to thank Starlight so much,” said Heidi. “[This experience] has made one cancer survivor very, very happy!!”
Heidi’s dad Darren, added, “We had a wonderful time in Florida. I really can’t thank Starlight enough for all the work they put in to make this happen. Heidi was feeling quite down before we went away but since coming back she has been a lot happier and has even arranged to go back to work in March.”
At any one time Starlight is working to fulfil up to 1,000 wishes, as well as providing year-round entertainment for very ill children in hospitals and hospices across the country. Every penny donated via Pennies on BiGDUG’s website helps to improve the life of a child and it’s as simple as pressing ‘yes’.