A SIX-year-old Rugby schoolgirl who had to learn to walk again after cancer treatment is urging people across the region to clear out their wardrobes to help save more lives like hers.
Holly Hughes from Cawston has been chosen to launch TK Maxx’s Give Up Clothes for Good campaign, in support of Cancer Research UK for Children and Young People.
To mark Childhood Cancer Awareness Month in September, Holly and her family are donating second-hand clothing, accessories and homeware they no longer need to their nearest TK Maxx store – and Holly is calling on other families to do the same.
Holly is one of 160 youngsters in the West Midlands and Warwickshire region who are diagnosed with cancer every year – and her family know how important research is in helping to save lives.
Mum Christina Cairns said: “We’re so thankful every day that treatment worked for Holly. It’s scary to think that without research and developing new treatments she wouldn’t be here now.
“Our world came crashing down when Holly was diagnosed but, thanks to advances in treatment, she was given a 95 per cent chance of survival. That’s amazing when you think that hardly any children survived her type of cancer in the 70s.
“But we know from meeting other families that she’s one of the lucky ones. That’s why raising money for Cancer Research UK for Children and Young People is so important – especially as the coronavirus pandemic has hit charities so hard.
“We hope everyone who reads this will get behind this vitally important campaign and turn something they no longer need into funds for such a fantastic cause.”
Holly was diagnosed with Acute Lymphoblastic Leukaemia just days before her second birthday in 2016. She hadn’t been poorly but when her mum noticed bruising on her legs followed by a pin-prick rash, she worried her little girl might have meningitis.
“I did the glass test and rang 111,” said Christina, who is engaged to Holly’s dad Chris Hughes. “We were told to take her to hospital where she had tests for a suspected blood disorder. I had no idea it might be cancer.”
Holly underwent daily chemotherapy treatment for two years, initially losing the use of her legs.
“The first four weeks were the worst,” said Christine, who runs Hughes Plumbing and Heating with Chris. “Due to the chemotherapy side effects she stopped walking and then she couldn’t move her legs at all.
“Thankfully she responded well to treatment and started to crawl and walk again with the help of physiotherapy. Remarkably, tests have shown there’s no lasting damage.”
Now the proud big sister of brother Harry, two, and two-month-old baby sister Summer, Holly can hardly remember her traumatic experience.
But she can remember just enough to know that she wants to help other children like her.
She said: “I hope people will donate their clothes because it’s a lovely thing to do to help other children get better like I did.”
Although Cancer Research UK’s work is helping more children survive cancer than ever before, the disease still claims the lives of around 510 under-25s in the UK every year.
Paula Young, Warwickshire spokesperson for Cancer Research UK for Children and Young People, said each bag of items donated could raise up to £25 when sold in Cancer Research UK shops.
She said: “We’re incredibly grateful to Holly and her family for their support during these unprecedented times. The truth is COVID-19 has slowed us down, but we will never stop.
“Cancer in children and young people is different to cancer in adults – from the types of cancer, to the impact of treatment and the long-term side effects survivors often experience. That’s why it needs different, dedicated research which campaigns like Give Up Clothes for Good help to fund.
“We want to help more children and young people survive cancer with a good quality of life. So, we hope as many people as possible will help to get our life-saving research back on track by donating any quality clothes or goods at their local TK Maxx store.”
Jo Murphy, Assistant Vice President of Corporate Responsibility at TK Maxx, said: “We’re making every effort to ensure that people can donate safely, so we can keep transforming their pre-loved items into vital funds.
“We hope the local community will show their support, because their donations really could help to save lives.”
People can donate at any TK Maxx store all year round, including Holly’s nearest store at Elliot’s Field Retail Park in Rugby.
Supporters can also help raise funds by wearing a gold ribbon badge – the awareness symbol of Childhood Cancer Awareness Month – available from TK Maxx and Cancer Research UK stores throughout September.
Visit www.cruk.org/childrenandyoungpeople for more information.
See above to watch a video about Holly’s journey.