By Andy Hirst
A new charity named in honour of a young Slaithwaite woman who had her unique way of living with terminal cancer has already helped dozens of young people with the disease.
The Ella Dawson Foundation was set up as a legacy to 24-year-old Ella by her mum, Jane, dad Kevin, sister Tasha and Ella’s partner, Connor Gamble.
An aspiring artist, former Greenhead College student Ella was diagnosed with a rare and aggressive form of blood cancer in 2019 shortly after graduating from Newcastle University. Over the course of two years she underwent constant and intense treatment. However, the cancer kept returning and, sadly, Ella passed away in July 2021.
Although Ella received outstanding clinical and medical care following her diagnosis she noticed there was a great need for psychological, physical, wellbeing, nutritional and social support. So she set out to create a blueprint of how young adults with cancer could be better supported holistically.
In the toughest days of her illness Ella felt that physical and psychological health were such a powerful force for good she set up a wellbeing blog to give advice on nutrition, exercise and remaining positive during treatment. She worked with blood cancer charities and even set up her own art studio in Huddersfield.
Jane said: “Ella continued to develop her extensive knowledge of physical and mental health, wellbeing and self-healing which inevitably increased her quality of life, mental strength and appreciation of life. We are so proud of the incredible inspirational person she was and everything she achieved. We now want to carry this on with the charity.”
The Foundation’s aim is to provide this kind of holistic support for all cancer patients aged 18 to 30. Its website (https://elladawsonfoundation.org.uk/) has lots more information about the services the charity offers. The ultimate aim is to set up its own specialist centre.
Jane said: “We are now approaching the end of our first year as a charity and are delighted to say it has been really successful both in terms of fundraising and, importantly, in terms of impact and support.
“Although there is strong evidence that physical and emotional wellbeing support has significant benefits during a cancer diagnosis, access to such support is very limited and so we help to fill that gap and support people by providing the things that help them to get through, to help them retain a sense of self, to help them build emotional and physical resilience and to be a person first and a patient second.
“We have delivered over 80 physical and emotional support interventions to young people with cancer and their families, many in West Yorkshire.
“This has included fully funded access to counsellors and clinical psychologists to help talk through worries and concerns, delivery of movement and yoga programmes to help rehabilitate during and after treatment, end of treatment programmes, wellbeing days and breaks away. We have exciting plans to develop our support and services this year.”
Jane revealed that more than 700 people have taken part in fundraising events over the last year which has put the charity in a strong position to forge ahead this year.
Major fundraisers for this year include a ball in Leeds in February; the CoachElla music, arts, wellbeing, food and drink festival in Slaithwaite on Saturday, August 12; a dragon boat race at Pugney’s Country Park near Wakefield on Saturday, July 8; a hike up Snowdon in Wales to see the sunrise in July, and the chance to do the Great North Run with Team Ella on Sunday, September 10.
Ella’s cancer specialist nurse at St James’ in Leeds, Robyn Hedge, will be running her first ever London Marathon on Sunday, April 23 for the Ella Dawson Foundation.
The charity is also looking to develop its board this year and would love to hear from anyone who would be interested in working to help it grow.
The first big fundraiser of the year will be a ball in Leeds on Saturday, February 11, which would have been Ella’s 26th birthday.
The emphasis will be on vibrant colour with people asked to dress as vividly as they can and there are some amazing auction prizes including a seven-night trip to Morocco including an all-inclusive two-night stay at a luxury desert camp in the Sahara.
The event will be at the Queens Hotel because when young people aged 16 to 24 from Huddersfield and most of West Yorkshire are diagnosed with cancer they are referred for treatment to St James’ Hospital in Leeds.
Young people who are being treated at Leeds and their families, along with some of the Leeds medical staff, are going to the ball which is why the organisers want to make it as easy to attend as possible for them.
To get tickets for the ball go to https://www.tickettailor.com/events/elladawsonfoundation/788614
* Written by ANDY HIRST who runs his own Yorkshire freelance journalism agency AH! PR (https://ah-pr.com/) specialising in press releases, blogging and copywriting. Copyright Andy Hirst.