A charity set up to remember a much-loved teenager who died of a brain tumour has received a £32,000 boost to achieve her wish of sending seriously ill children on unforgettable holidays.
The money was raised thanks to hundreds of supporters who turned out at the Racecourse Pavilion in Chester for the 1960s-themed A Groovy Kind of Ball, in aid of Nicola’s Fund.
The charity was started by Debbie and Steve Riley, the parents of talented music and dance-loving Llay teenager Nicola Riley, a former pupil of The Hammond School, Chester.
Nicola tragically passed away on April 20, 2005, just five days before her 15th birthday, following a long and determined fight against a brain tumour.
The fundraising event, for which many attendees wore sixties style costumes, was generously sponsored by local businesses as well as many individuals who knew and loved Nicola.
The fundraising ball this year marked its 12th anniversary and Nicola’s parents, Steve and Debbie Riley are deeply touched by the amount of support it received.
Many of Nicola’s friends and former schoolmates made special journeys to attend as a tribute to the pal they continue to miss for her vibrant, fun-loving personality.
The main sponsor was Wrexham-based Hadlow Edwards Wealth Management Ltd.
Nicola’s father, Steve, who works with Hadlow Edwards, said: “It was a wonderful night. The atmosphere was upbeat and everyone had a great time while so generously helping to raise funds for the cause.
“We cannot thank people enough for the fantastic response we had. About 330 guests were there on the night which is amazing.
“Donations of raffle prizes were also magnanimous, with a prize going to every table. During the evening we also handed out goody bags of sweets to all the guests. In each one there was a ticket and the holder of the winning ticket received a necklace worth £3,500 from Boodles the jewellers.”
Dominic Richmond, Operations Director for Hadlow Edwards, added: “The amount raised at the ball has been remarkable. It is a real credit to Nicola’s vision that this bi-annual ball continues to be such a fantastic success.
“Despite being so seriously ill, Nicola’s selflessness and desire to help others is evident. Before she died she had the tenacity to make sure her dream would go ahead – to give other severely ill children and their families a much-needed holiday.
“Nicola’s Fund is a living legacy of the kind that Nicola could rightly be immensely proud of.
“I also pay tribute to Debbie and Steve for so determinedly seeing their daughter’s dream come to fruition, and to all the people who have assisted them in making Nicola’s Fund the tremendous organisation it is today.”
Proceeds from the ball and other Nicola’s Fund events go directly towards helping the charity provide memorable holidays for severely ill children and their families.
To date Nicola’s Fund has now raised more than £600,000 and 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.
The first recipient of such a holiday was Anna Culshaw, who suffered a rare blood cancer as a little girl.
Now recovered and aged 20, Anna, of Carrog, near Corwen, North Wales, was a star guest on Saturday night. She delivered a heart-rending talk about how the memories of that family getaway to Centre Parcs are precious to her.
She told of how grateful she and her parents were for the chance of some respite time and of how the short break was an important bonding experience, strengthening her relationship with her brother Joe.
About £10,000 of the funds raised from the ball is also earmarked for providing decking alongside the two caravans the charity owns in North Wales, plus some additional furniture.
The remainder will continue to meet the full cost of holidays for families and provide them with some ‘spending money’ while they are away.
Steve said the idea for the fund was entirely his daughter’s. Nicola was inspired to think of it a year before she passed away, after she returned from a holiday in Florida where she enjoyed swimming with dolphins.
She was concerned for her friends at Alder Hey Children’s Hospital, Liverpool, some of whom she feared would never have the opportunity of a holiday like hers.
Steve said: “It was Nicola’s dream to launch a charity like this. We are simply following her ideas and, through the unstinting support of so many generous people like those who turned out on Saturday night, we have been able to see her wish come true.”
For more information or to donate, visit the website: www.nicolasfund.co.uk