Virtual cheer for hundreds of families affected by childhood cancer after COVID cancels Christmas parties

Childhood cancer research charity Children with Cancer UK aims to bring some Christmas cheer into the homes of families affected by childhood cancer this December with a range of virtual activities, events and gifts for children.

20 November 2020

Lily compressed

Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the charity has unfortunately had to cancel its Christmas parties for families, previously held in London and Manchester, and will instead hold two virtual Christmas events for families affected by childhood cancer this December.

Families can also sign up to receive Christmas gift boxes and video messages from Santa. More than 200 families have so far signed up for the charity’s various Christmas activities and gifts, which aim to spread some Christmas joy.

Children with Cancer UK Events Manager, Samantha Lloyd, said:

Due to the coronavirus pandemic, our Christmas parties for children with cancer unfortunately can’t go ahead this year, but we are determined to keep supporting and bringing joy to children and families when they need it most. Through these virtual Christmas activities and events, as well as gifts and messages from Santa for children, we hope to spread a little Christmas cheer after what has been an extremely challenging year for families affected by childhood cancer. Not only have these families faced the stress of COVID, many have had the added pressure of cancer treatment and long periods of isolation and shielding this year.

Lily-May Betts, 4, from Hitchin, Hertfordshire, will be attending the charity’s virtual Christmas party on 21 December and is also celebrating her first treatment-free Christmas since her brain tumour (optic pathway glioma) diagnosis in November 2017, aged just one. Lily began treatment in December 2017 and has since undergone more than three years of gruelling chemotherapy.

Lily’s dad, Stephen Betts, said:

Christmas last year was spent with me rushing around all day on Christmas trying to get Lily out of hospital, where she’d been for the last two weeks having treatment and suffering from side effects – it wasn’t a traditional, relaxing Christmas. This Christmas we are welcoming a new member to the family – Lily has a little sister on the way – and we are very much looking forward to a Christmas together free of chemotherapy, treatment side effects and hospital rooms. It will be wonderful to celebrate a Christmas that doesn’t revolve around cancer and the stress and worry that comes with it. Looking ahead, our hope for Lily’s future are that she can have a normal childhood; I hope that she is not significantly affected by any of the chemo or brain tumour side effects, like her reduced vision, and I hope we can continue to give her the best start in life possible.

The charity has also launched a ‘12 days of Christmas’ fundraising campaign which encourages the public to ‘give the gift of hope’ this Christmas. Due to the coronavirus pandemic, Children with Cancer UK’s funding is under serious threat.

Events Manager, Samantha Lloyd, commented:

The charity is facing an income loss of around 40% which will impact the amount of funding provided for life-saving childhood cancer research now and in the future. Support is urgently needed to ensure research, and the discovery of kinder and more effective treatments, for childhood cancer is not set back by many years.

The ‘12 days of Christmas’ fundraising campaign includes ideas such as donating your Christmas party, growing a Santa beard or challenging yourself to a winter dip. To sign up, click here.

Sign up for Children with Cancer UK’s Christmas activities and offerings here.

A Christmas Craft Party will take place on the 13 December and a Virtual Christmas Party with Captain Fantastic, a magic show and party games will be held on the 21 December.

Editors’ Notes

Children with Cancer UK’s press office

E: media@childrenwithcancer.org.uk

T: 0207 404 0808 M: 07 795 956 342

About Children with Cancer UK

Children with Cancer UK is the leading national charity dedicated to research into childhood cancer.

We fund research into the causes and treatment of childhood cancers and provide support for families affected by childhood cancer. We have accelerated breakthroughs to improve childhood cancer survival rates and find kinder, more effective treatments with fewer toxic side effects. This ground-breaking research, which would otherwise go unfunded, saves the lives of children with cancer.  Children with Cancer UK receives no government funding and relies entirely on the generosity of donations from supporters.

About childhood cancer and Children with Cancer UK’s impact

Every day in the UK, 12 children and young people are diagnosed with cancer.

Fifty years ago, only 30% of children with leukaemia survived, and for most other forms of childhood cancer survival rates were even lower. Today, thanks to our supporters and the dedication of visionary researchers like those we fund, more than 80% of young patients can be successfully treated. More vital research is needed though as there are still a number of cancers affecting children and young people with low survival rates and life-limiting side effects. Cancer remains the single largest cause of death from disease in children and young people in the UK.

Blonde girl in Christmas jumper sitting on chair