Make a PACT to support Sheffield families in darkest days

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On the darkest of days when helpless parents are struggling to cope with watching their beloved children in pain, a Sheffield cause is there to help.

Whether it is a sandwich mums and dads need, a listening ear or time away from the ward for a family meal with their other children, PACT does all it can to make life that little bit easier for parents with children battling cancer.

Founded by a group of eight parents in 1977, the Parents Association of Children with Tumours and Leukaemia initially simply wanted to raise enough money for a Christmas party for young cancer victims and a summer away day to give them something to look forward to.

Now, 39 years later, the charity owns a house where parents can escape to for an hour or two as a break from the tough days on the M3 cancer ward at Sheffield Children’s Hospital while their children are undergoing gruelling treatment.

It also owns two mobile homes which families can use for holidays and it organises parties and trips for those undergoing treatment as well as cancer survivors and their siblings they have supported over the years.

For grieving parents whose children lost their battles with cancer, PACT runs a coffee morning once a month for families to get together for support and a chat.

Friends and family of Leukaemia-sufferer Ellie Thompson have raised money for PACT who offer families supports during the child's illness. From left, Mum Lindsey Thompson, Joshua Thompson, Ellie, Beryl Welburn (co-ordinator from PACT), Dad Carl Thompson with Neil Tryner and Trevor Pinder who were two of the friend who joined him on the sponsored walk. �4500 was raised

Friends and family of Leukaemia-sufferer Ellie Thompson have raised money for PACT who offer families supports during the child's illness. From left, Mum Lindsey Thompson, Joshua Thompson, Ellie, Beryl Welburn (co-ordinator from PACT), Dad Carl Thompson with Neil Tryner and Trevor Pinder who were two of the friend who joined him on the sponsored walk. �4500 was raised

It is also trying to raise £670,000 to build a new oncology and haematology outpatients department next to the cancer ward at Sheffield Children’s Hospital.

But the beating heart of PACT is Beryl Welburn, aged 52, from Barnsley, whose daughter Laura was diagnosed with leukaemia in 1991 when she was four.

Laura, now 28 and a mum to 17-month-old Mason, survived her battle, but Beryl said PACT was a lifesaver at the time and she wants to give the same support she received to others experiencing the same struggles.

“PACT is about doing the little things that make a terrible time just a little bit easier,” she said.

“This is more than a job to me, it is something I am really, really passionate about because from first hand experience I know what a difference it makes to know you have some support. Having someone to listen, someone to care, someone to do the little things makes a big difference.

“PACT supported me and my family and I want to ensure others have that same support that I did.”

Carl and Lindsey Thompson, from Jordanthorpe, Sheffield, know only too well how invaluable the support of PACT is, following their daughter Ellie’s diagnosis with leukaemia when she was eight years old.

Ellie, who attends Meadowhead School and is nearly 14, underwent years of gruelling treatment at Sheffield Children’s Hospital, including rounds of chemotherapy which caused her to lose her hair.

To say thank you to PACT for supporting the schoolgirl, her parents and brother, Josh, now 11, the Thompson family has raised thousands of pounds for the charity through events including the Yorkshire Three Peaks walking challenge, a coast to coast cycling challenge, auctions and the National Three Peak Challenge.

They have raised around £20,000 altogether, with the bulk going to PACT and some to the Be Child Cancer Aware charity, which tries to raise awareness of the signs of childhood cancer.

The family has also donated money to Donna’s Dream House in Blackpool, which provides free holiday experiences for children with life-threatening illnesses and their families.

Lindsey, a 36-year-old nursery nurse, said: “I first found out about PACT when Ellie was having her first week of treatment and Beryl came in to the room and explained that her daughter had been through the same thing when she was four.

“To know that somebody knows how you feel, what you are going through, makes all the difference.

“Even on her weekends off if there is a child seriously ill Beryl will be at the hospital offering support to the family.”

Friends and family of Leukaemia-sufferer Ellie Thompson have raised money for PACT who offer families supports during the child's illness. From left, Mum Lindsey Thompson, Joshua Thompson, Ellie, Beryl Welburn (co-ordinator from PACT), Dad Carl Thompson with Neil Tryner and Trevor Pinder who were two of the friend who joined him on the sponsored walk. �4500 was raised

Friends and family of Leukaemia-sufferer Ellie Thompson have raised money for PACT who offer families supports during the child's illness. From left, Mum Lindsey Thompson, Joshua Thompson, Ellie, Beryl Welburn (co-ordinator from PACT), Dad Carl Thompson with Neil Tryner and Trevor Pinder who were two of the friend who joined him on the sponsored walk. �4500 was raised

So impressed is the family with the help and support PACT offers cancer victims and their families, Carl is now a charity trustee.

Lindsey said: “It is shocking when your child is diagnosed - your world is turned upside down,” she added.

“I though Ellie was anaemic, I never for one minute thought she was as ill as she was.

“You go onto the ward at the hospital and you see children with no hair, children so very very ill and you feel nothing but fear.

“To have some one approach you and say ‘we have been there, this is what will happen’ was such a relief.”