Shona's charity becoming reality

HOPES of creating a major charity in memory of Ipswich youngster Shona Gill are moving closer to reality today.Since the 10-year-old lost her battle with cancer in December her parents have worked tirelessly to create a charity in her name.

SHONA Gill will be remembered across Suffolk for her fighting spirit and courage in the face of cancer.

Today the ten-year-old's trademark smile is set to be immortalised in a charity set up in her memory.

Shona's Smile Foundation will grant the wishes of sick children and fund research into the condition, which claimed her life shortly before Christmas. KATE BOXELL reports.

HOPES of creating a major charity in memory of Ipswich youngster Shona Gill are moving closer to reality today.

Since the ten-year-old lost her battle with cancer in December, her parents have worked tirelessly to create a charity in her name.

They hope Shona's Smile Foundation will raise enough money to grant the wishes of sick children and fund research into Shona's cancer rhabdomyosarcoma.

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From the family home in Laurelhayes, Pete and Tracy Gill have created a board of directors for the charity and have filled in the mountain of paperwork needed to gain charity status.

They are now in the last stage of the process and hope to formerly launch the charity on July 17.

An official website has already been set up and an online shop is now active, selling lilac wristbands in memory of Shona.

Tracy Gill, 39, said: “We chose to have bands purely because Shona loved children, her friends meant so much to her and these bands are the craze of the moment with children. A lot of her friends said the bands would be a good idea.

“We chose the colour because it was Shona's favourite. It was the colour of her bedroom and her coffin. It seemed an appropriate colour.”

Initially two thousand of the bands were ordered but they proved so popular more now need to be made to meet demand.

Mrs Gill added: “We had so much response from children before they went into production and they were all asking when the bands were going to be here.

“We have had the support of Halifax School, the other schools in the area and the community.”

Mr and Mrs Gill are now hoping people will volunteer to donate to the charity through payroll giving and donations.

They also hope businesses in Suffolk may come forward as sponsors.

The money from Shona's original Smile Appeal will now be transferred to the new Foundation.

Originally set up to fund Shona's treatment, the appeal continued even when further treatment became impossible.

Shona chose several things she wanted to do with the money and one was to buy play equipment for her schoolmates at Halifax.

Nearly £12,000 has now been spent on a play train and an outdoor stage for the school.

Shona's parents have already opened The Shona Express for youngsters at the school to enjoy but the equipment will be officially opened at the launch of the charity on July 17.

The event will run from noon to 5pm and will include a balloon release, stalls and possibly a bouncy castle.

It is hoped people will make donations to release a balloon with a message attached in memory of a loved one.

The Gills are also hoping people wishing to have stalls at the event will come forward.

Anyone wishing to release a balloon, have a stall or help out on the day should contact Mr and Mrs Gill by e-mail at z2b194@hotmail.com or via the website www.shonassmile.org.

Lilac bands can be obtained in the same way and the suggested cost is a minimum of £1. An additional 50p will be required for postage costs.

N Donations can be made to The Shona Smile Foundation at Barclays Bank account number 3033721, sort code 20-44-51.

N Shona showed the first signs of pain and discomfort in her legs early in 2001. Her parents took her to the doctors but were told it was growing pains. It is not known whether this was the beginning of the cancer.

N In February 2003 Shona becomes very unwell and was given a prescription for a kidney infection.

Her body had a scent of urine which her parents later discover was caused by the force of her tumour on her organs.

She was taken to hospital where an ultrasound revealed a growth on her ovary.

N The next month Shona underwent a five-hour operation to remove a tumour the size of a rugby ball. The tumour was pushing on her organs and doctors could not remove it without risking Shona's life.

N On March 19 Shona began her first course of chemotherapy.

N By September the tumour had been removed, destroying Shona's uterus and damaging her hip bone. She then began radiotherapy.

N In March 2004 Shona's tumour has returned. Doctors said surgery in the UK could mean removing her bowel, bladder and part of her left leg.

A £250,000 appeal was launched to send her to the US for treatment.

N In May 2004 Shona takes her SATS exams and achieves year six results despite being in year four.

N By May/ June 2004 it became clear Shona would not be able to have treatment in the Us as she had already begun chemotherapy in the UK. The family decide the appeal will be spent on Shona's care and research into her condition.

N In August 2004 Shona had a four-hour operation to remove a tumour. Doctors told the family the tumour was less severe than first thought and take a biopsy of tissue found in Shona's body.

The relief is short-lived as results of the biopsy reveal the true severity of Shona's condition. Though the tumour has been removed doctors fear it will come back and there will be nothing they can do for Shona.

N On October 1, 2004 Shona was due to celebrate her tenth birthday with a party but contracted shingles.

She became ill again but doctors told her mum is was not related to the tumour - the family believed the tumour has gone.

The following day they are told it has returned.

N On November 5 Shona returned home to Laurelhayes and a hospital bed was set up in the lounge. Doctors say she has about 14 days to live.

N On December 4, 2004 Shona finally lost her battle, 29 days later.

Rhabdomyosarcoma fact file:

n Shona's cancer was a rhabdomyosarcoma, one of a group of tumours known as soft tissue sarcomas. These develop from muscle or fibrous tissue and can affect many different parts of the body.

n The most common areas of the body to be affected are around the head and

neck, the bladder or the testes. Sometimes the tumours are found in

muscles of the limbs and in the chest or abdominal wall. Occasionally, if the

tumour is in the head or neck region, it can spread into the brain or spinal fluid.

n The most common sign is a swelling or lump. Sometimes the swelling can

cause blockage (obstruction) and discharge from the nose or throat. If the

tumour is in the bladder, the child may have difficulty passing urine.

n About two thirds of all children with rhabdomyosarcoma are cured. After

treatment the doctors will regularly check the child to be sure the cancer has

not come back and that there are no complications. After a while you will not need to visit the clinic so often.

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