Fundraisers are class act for cause close to their school

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Sixteen teachers and staff from a Bristol school are aiming high with their fundraising when they tackle a triple mountain climbing challenge for a cause close to their hearts.

Next weekend the intrepid crew from Mangotsfield School, are taking on the Three Welsh Peaks Walking Challenge in aid of Molly Ollys, a charity which supported their colleague’s family.

Shelley Humphries’ son Thomas is halfway through two years of intensive treatment for Acute Lymphoblastic Leukaemia after being diagnosed last summer.

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The 15-year-old, who attends nearby Downend School, was gifted a Playstation 5, new handsets and FIFA game by the charity so he could stay in contact with his friends while having to remain in isolation due to his treatment.

Shelley, Ben, William and Thomas Humphries.Shelley, Ben, William and Thomas Humphries.
Shelley, Ben, William and Thomas Humphries.

Shelley, who is Head of Geography at Mangotsfield School, said: “Thomas is a crazy football fan and loves physically playing but his illness has meant that he is not able to do this. This has been so important in allowing him to reconnect with his friends and also gives him something to focus on when he is at home on his own.

“It has improved his mental health and allows him to feel that he is still part of his friends' lives even if he can't be with them.”

Molly Ollys was established in 2011 by Rachel and Tim Ollerenshaw following the death of their eight-year-old daughter Molly from a rare kidney cancer.

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The Warwickshire-based charity works to support children with terminal or life-limiting illnesses and their families and help with their emotional wellbeing. As well as providing wishes, they donate therapeutic toys and books to both children directly and to hospitals throughout the UK.

Thomas with mum Shelley.Thomas with mum Shelley.
Thomas with mum Shelley.

The therapeutic toy lion called Olly The Brave who has his own Hickman line and a detachable mane which helps to explain and normalise the effects of chemotherapy. These form part of an Olly The Brave pack that has now been handed out to more than 70 hospitals or health centres, along with a set of books from the charity’s exclusive Olly The Brave series.

The walking challenge, organised by Mangotsfield’s Assistant Head and PE teacher Gareth John, will see the fundraisers attempt to scale Snowdon (1,080m), Cadair Idris (890m) and Pen y Fan (880m) Mountains, on June 22.

Gareth, who has worked alongside Shelley for 14 years, is hoping to hit big heights for the charity with an extended fundraising target of £3,000.

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He said: “The challenge with the Three Welsh Peaks is to do it within 24 hours but we are aiming to do it within 12-18 hours! The thing we’re most worried about is the weather and the differential in fitness levels. It’s known to snow at the top of Snowdon year-round.”

Molly Ollys founder Rachel Ollerenshaw with charity mascot Olly The Brave.Molly Ollys founder Rachel Ollerenshaw with charity mascot Olly The Brave.
Molly Ollys founder Rachel Ollerenshaw with charity mascot Olly The Brave.

“But it will never be far from our minds why we are doing this. We are very aware of the challenging times that Shelley and the family have gone through. Teenage cancer is always going to be something that’s close to all our hearts and particularly when it’s brought to our direct attention.

“We all know it exists but it’s one of those things we all think will never happen to us or someone we know. As a parent, you put yourself in that position and I can’t imagine what they’ve gone through as a family so anything we can do to make that experience in any way easier has a disproportional impact.”

Shelley said: “Getting that diagnosis was just devastating for my husband Ben and I. It’s hard to put it into words how we felt at that moment when every possible worse scenario you can imagine goes through your head.

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“But It’s the most common cancer in children and the most treatable and Thomas has been given a 99% chance of survival.”

Rachel and Tim Ollerenshaw.Rachel and Tim Ollerenshaw.
Rachel and Tim Ollerenshaw.

She said: “For the school to do something like this is incredible. I think Molly Ollys is an amazing charity and we’ve already done loads of fundraising for it as a family. It’s a really easy charity to support because it’s tangible, it actually does something to change the life of the child who’s going through this. To me, that is something you can measure and that’s why I think a lot of people are happy to give.”

Rachel Ollerenshaw said: “It is always incredibly humbling to hear the kind words of thanks from the families that we support and to know the difference that these simple things can do for children’s emotional well-being when they are facing very challenging circumstances.

“Whilst the Charity has grown over the years, keeping the personal element to what we do both with those we help and our donors, is really important. A huge thank you to everyone involved at Mangotsfield. Just incredible and we are very grateful to you all.”

To support the Three Welsh Peaks Challenge donate via: https://www.justgiving.com/team/mangotsfieldschool

For more information about Molly Ollys or to donate visit: http://www.mollyolly.co.uk/

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