South Yorkshire youngster's journey inspires £50,000 fundraising effort to help future generations

“When we got the news, I jumped up and down and screamed. Jude asked whether we’d won the lottery. I said it’s better than that, you’re cancer free.”

By diana stannard
Tuesday, 20th April 2021, 1:55 pm

This time last year eight-year-old Jude Hawkridge from Rotherham fainted whilst playing football with his friends.

Unusually tired and not his normal self, his family received the devastating news that he had leukaemia. Since then, a huge community effort has seen more than £50,000 raised in Jude’s honour to redevelop the ward providing his care.

Jude began treatment at Sheffield Children’s within days of his diagnosis for Acute Lymphoblastic Leukaemia. The condition, which affects around 325 children in the UK every year, is caused by a genetic mutation which releases immature white blood cells into the blood stream.

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It progresses with speed and aggression, requiring immediate care. Jude’s treatment has involved chemotherapy, chimeric antigen receptor T-cell (CAR-T) therapy, which involves reprogramming the patient’s immune system cells as well as bone marrow transplant provided by his older sister Lily.

After spending more than 100 nights on the Cancer and Leukaemia ward at Sheffield Children’s, the family last month received the news they had been longing to hear: Jude is cancer free.

Jude’s journey has inspired more than £50,000 to be raised in his name for The Children’s Hospital Charity, affectionately and collectively known as ‘TeamJude’, to transform the ward providing his treatment.

Among the many highlights were:

Countless runs, walks, cycles and even talent evenings!

A kind-hearted stranger, Tom Cotterill, ran 13.1 miles every day for a month to raise money for the appeal after seeing a post about Jude on social media.

Four friends overcame their fears to take on a skydive for Jude.

Over £6,000 raised at Christmas for a special #TeamJude snowflake, displayed on the outside of Sheffield Children’s Hospital, thanks to fundraising from Jude’s school, Thorpe Hesley Primary, KCM Waste Management and a supporter raffle.

More than £7,600 raised by hundreds taking part in a 5K virtual challenge over the Easter weekend, donning Jude’s favourite colours, yellow and blue.

Jude explains: “I cannot believe how many people have got behind me. They have raised such a huge amount and I feel very loved.”

Mum Jo adds: “As a family, we are so touched, but also really shocked that so many people, from friends and family to people we have never met want to help.

“TeamJude has helped us all, but especially for Jude and I, it has meant that we feel like ‘we are doing something’. To give back to Sheffield Children’s, especially to the team of people who have helped our family so much, has enabled us to concentrate on something other than leukaemia.”

A centre of excellence, the Oncology and Haematology department at Sheffield Children’s covers a population spanning an area from South Yorkshire through to Nottingham and Grimsby.

The ward provides treatment for cancer and blood disorders in children from babies through to 19-year-olds in South Yorkshire, Derbyshire and Lincolnshire. It also sees patients from across the UK for chemotherapy, operations, and bone marrow transplants.

It is hoped the new space will be fully funded by charitable donations in less than eight months’ time, yet how much the space can be improved will depend on how much can be raised in the intervening period.

Jude’s mum Jo continues: “The team on the Cancer and Leukaemia ward and in clinic are amazing. They really have become friends and been a huge support. It feels like a safe haven when your child is sick. It is draining and stressful at times, understandably you are filled with worry and anxiety when your child is ill, but the staff and other parents are a great support.

“The treatment and care are outstanding, but the ward is dated and in need of renovation. We have spent over 100 nights on the ward at Sheffield Children’s last year, which is not a lot compared to some of the children.

“It’s very exciting to think that by Christmas, fundraising for the new ward will have been completed. Jude is very proud of himself to be able to help all the children who will need it in the future, allowing them to stay on a ward which is more comfortable, modern and homely.”

To support the appeal, visit www.tchc.org.uk/donate