Children’s charity refused COVID emergency cash

Children’s charity refused COVID emergency cash

THE founder of a Warwick charity for children with terminal and life-limiting illnesses is appealing for vital support after missing out on emergency cash to ease the impact of the pandemic to the tune of £250,000.

Many charitable organisations are learning they don’t qualify for grants due to a number of loopholes despite applications for smaller charity grants opening.

Molly Olly’s Wishes was established in 2011 following the death of Rachel and Tim Ollerenshaw’s eight-year-old daughter Molly from a rare kidney cancer.

The Hatton Park-based charity helps with the emotional wellbeing of the children and their families as well as granting wishes and donating therapeutic toys and books to both children directly and to hospitals throughout the UK.

Rachel and Tim Ollerenshaw with the familiar Molly Olly’s pink van.

It is forecast up to £250,000 in proceeds will be lost to their coffers with fundraising events wiped from the calendar due to COVID-19 for the foreseeable future, including the charity’s biggest event of the year, the Molly Olly Ball, in November.

Last month Chancellor Rishi Sunak unveiled a UK COVID-19 support package worth £750m, including a dedicated £370m for small local charities.

In a live speech to the nation, Mr Sunak said: “Some charities provide critical services to support the vulnerable people and communities. For them, shutting up shop at this moment would be to contravene their very purpose, their entire reason to exist. Those charities have never been more needed than they are now and they’ve never faced such a sudden fall in their funding.

“Some £370m of the funding will support small local charities working with vulnerable people. We all know who they are, those small charities in our village, our market towns, in pockets of our cities, the unsung heroes looking after the vulnerable and holding together our social fabric.

Despite struggling to qualify for the cash lifeline, Molly Olly’s founder Rachel Ollerenshaw says the work to provide vital support must continue.

Molly Olly's Wishes, Rachel Ollerenshaw

She said: “Children and families need our support now more than ever. The wishes that the charity grants, the consultant based at Birmingham Children’s Hospital that the charity funds, the Olly The Brave packs distributed to hospitals across the UK – all have a significant positive impact for the children and their families.

“Organisations such as the local children’s community nursing team have turned to us through the pandemic for help connecting with families and a new webpage has been designed by them which will be hosted by Molly Olly’s.

“The work of Molly Olly’s is considered to be relevant and significant by the health professionals and individuals for supporting children with life-threatening illnesses and needs to be maintained.

“Large and small charities work together to improve the lives of children and the virus does not make these children any less vulnerable.”

She added: “Sometimes the work of smaller charities can be overlooked and thought to be less significant. However, from our experience and knowing the work that other small charities do, our belief is that we are all part of a larger jigsaw here to help support vulnerable children through extremely challenging times.”

Having gained its charity status in 2012, Molly Olly’s has so far helped more than 2,000 children from new-born to age 18 by granting individual wishes. They may take the form of equipment to help a child live day to day with their condition; an alternative therapy treatment to complement traditional medicine, or even a special occasion or day out.

Molly Ollerenshaw, Molly Olly's Wishes

Mascot of the charity is a 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 40 hospitals, along with a book from the charity’s exclusive Olly The Brave series.

Some 30 children a week in the UK are given a cancer diagnosis, and more are told that they have a life-threatening or terminal illness in one form or another. Many of these, especially those diagnosed with leukaemia will be under five years old.


Matt Western MP
Matt Western MP

Warwick MP Matt Western is taking up the charity’s case. He said this week: ‘‘I’m deeply disappointed that local charity Molly Olly’s has been denied Government support, given all that they do to help children with terminal and life-limiting illnesses, and their families.’

“There are many amazing charities in Warwick and Leamington that work tirelessly year-round to help residents in need of support, and many have gone above and beyond during this crisis. But to continue this work, charities are in urgent need of financial assistance. I am urging the Government to step up and provide a comprehensive support package to the sector, so that charities like Molly Olly’s don’t fall through the cracks.”

Rachel Ollerenshaw added: “These remain worrying and uncertain times and we need, more than ever, to pull together and support the most vulnerable. If everyone reading this made a small donation it could make a big difference.”

Further information about Molly Olly’s Wishes or details of how to donate can be found at: or contact Rachel on 07747 854914.

Read a case study for Molly Olly’s Wishes here.

Ella Richards: Molly Olly’s Wishes case study

Ella Richards: Molly Olly’s Wishes case study

WATCHING on as your child is forced to come to terms with a cancer diagnosis is thankfully beyond the comprehension of most parents.

Joining them on their rigorous journey through life-saving treatment partly against the backdrop of a global pandemic, is simply unprecedented – until now.

Sadly, for 16-year-old Ella Richards, from Henley-in-Arden, it’s all-too real after learning a few months ago that she had Non-Hodgkins Lymphoma.

Molly Olly's Wishes, Ella Richards, Non-Hodgkins Lymphoma
Melanie, Gavin, Charlie, Scarlett and Ella Richards in 2016

Ella knew she faced a serious health battle ahead just at a time when she should have been working towards her GCSEs and planning for her future.

It was only after several months of poor health, endless doctors’ appointments and hospital tests – that the family learned the extent of this battle – with a high-grade and particularly aggressive cancer which had spread throughout her body.

Ella’s mum Melanie recalls: “We were on holiday and she’d just finished her mock exams and was naturally tired but she started sleeping more and more and the doctors just kept saying it’s anaemia or an infection but I knew it was more than that. I had felt for some time that something was just not right.

“We were back and forwards to the doctors. It was traumatic for the whole family. I felt like I was losing her, every day she was just becoming weaker and weaker, not eating, not being able to sleep at night, constantly up and down.

“When we finally did find out, in October last year, it was absolutely devastating. The minute I walked into Ella’s hospital room I just knew it was bad news and from that point on everything moved so quickly. It was like being on a rollercoaster strapped in and there’s nothing you can do. Our lives turned upside down overnight.

She added: “I couldn’t face telling other people at first because I couldn’t take on their reactions while I was still trying to process it all myself. I felt completely numb, why has this happened to us? But at least we had a diagnosis and a plan and knew what we were dealing with.”

Ella at Birmingham Children’s Hospital

As Ella’s health continued to deteriorate, she lost a third of her body weight and doctors at Birmingham Children’s Hospital were forced to make a life or death decision.

“We were really scared when she was in ICU and the consultant said they would never normally start chemotherapy on a child this poorly, but they didn’t have a choice. I just felt like I was living in an alternative world, like a bubble. You don’t feel like you can relate to anyone or anything in the outside world.”

But Ella pulled through and, during six months of chemotherapy, gradually gained back her strength and determination to fight off the disease.

And it was a present Melanie will never forget when, on Mother’s Day in March this year, Ella completed her sixth -and final round of chemo – and soon returned home – but it was a very different world she was coming back to – a world of shielded isolation for her, her mum and dad and two siblings.

Melanie said: “By the time she was having her last bout of chemo practically everyone on the ward was in isolation due to COVID-19. Children couldn’t visit so it was literally one adult, so my husband, Gavin, and I took it in turns.

“The whole family has had to go into isolation for 12 weeks which gives Ella the best chance to fully recover infection-free. But it also gives us back some precious family time. After everything we’ve been through, I just feel blessed to have them all here at home and healthy.”

The day they had all longed for finally arrived a few weeks ago when Ella was given the all-clear of cancer from her latest scans.

But Coronavirus has meant there is still unfinished business when it comes to officially celebrating the news.

Melanie said: “It took two or three days for the news to sink in. My husband and I were walking around in a daze just pinching ourselves.

“When it came to ringing the bell for end of treatment we weren’t allowed to have anyone join us, so she decided she didn’t want to do it and would rather wait until she could do it as a proper celebration with family and friends. We’d been looking at this bell for six months straight waiting for the day to come when she could finally ring it, so we wanted to do it properly.”

Molly Olly's Wishes, Ella Richards, Non-Hodgkins Lymphoma
Ella, sister Scarlett and mum Melanie

Mum and daughter are thankful to local charity Molly Olly’s Wishes, which supports children with terminal or life-limiting illnesses – and which, they say, played a big part in Ella’s recovery.

The Warwick-based charity gifted Ella a £500 Bullring shopping voucher which the teen spent on. Among other things, fake eyelashes and eyebrow treatments after losing her hair.

Melanie said: “Ella had the gift voucher at the time she was at her lowest and weakest, it gave her such a boost and such a focus. To be honest she would have really struggled without it, it brought light to a dark place.”

The spending sprees also also led to a new-found passion for Pandora jewellery and she now proudly sports a bracelet bearing 10 carefully chosen charms symbolising every step of her cancer journey, including a ghosts charm marking her first chemo session on Halloween and a compass charm symbolising how she ‘got back on track after a chaotic journey.’

Ella explains: “I shaved all my hair off before I started treatment because I didn’t want the stress of it falling out. I wanted it to be on my terms. I chose jewellery as another way to express myself because my hair was a big part of my identity before, so wanted something new to add to my identity. Everything they create is unique and tells a story.

“Also, if I wore a cancer ribbon, everyone would know what had happened to me whereas this is something personal that I only know the meaning behind.”

And, of a scrapbook she’s also compiled as a memory of her journey, Ella said: “In the future when I’m having a bad day I can look back at what I went through and it will give me strength and courage for the future. I thought it would be a good coping mechanism for me to distract myself.”


Molly Olly's Wishes, Rachel Ollerenshaw


Like her mum, Ella will never forget the valuable role played by Molly Olly’s Wishes.

She said: “Molly Olly’s helped me through the chaos of my diagnosis and chemotherapy, their gift gave me something to really look forward to. Thanks to the charity I could enjoy going out shopping and forget the worries and stress of cancer and feel like a normal teenager again.”

The Henley High School student, the eldest of three siblings, has also had to come to terms with major disruption to her academic career when COVID-19 enforced the cancellation of her summer exams. But, she admits, even this might offer a silver lining.

“I was very behind with my schoolwork because of all the time I’d had to take out, so to know I wasn’t going to be taking my exams was actually a relief because I still had a lot of revision to do. They are going on predicted grades which works well for me because mine were good.”

So good in fact, the talented teen is now setting her sights on sixth form at Alcester Grammar School before hopefully securing a place at one of the country’s top universities – to realise her new ambition of becoming an oncologist!

She said: “I always wanted to be a doctor but now I’m thinking about working in oncology so I can help people like me. There was a nurse on my ward who actually had cancer when she was my age and she made such a difference to me because she actually understood exactly what I was going through – so I want to be able to do that for other people.”

Further information about Molly Olly’s Wishes or how to donate can be found at:

Businesses have got it covered in emergency pandemic venture

Businesses have got it covered in emergency pandemic venture

TWO childhood friends and entrepreneurs from Henley-in-Arden are staving off the pandemic’s impact on their businesses by collaborating on a timely new community venture.

Henley House and Henley Printing have joined forces to produce branded face masks responding to a forecast demand driven by easing of lockdown restrictions.

Henley House, Henley Printing, Molly Olly's Wishes, face masks
Tom Cross, Ste Barrett and Sally James outside Henley House.

They’re also supporting neighbouring local charity Molly Olly’s Wishes which will receive a percentage of the profits.

Both businesses, which have been forced to close throughout lockdown, are already seeing a huge demand for the masks from other local firms.

Ste Barrett, owner of Henley Printing, which designs and prints clothing and uniforms, said: “Early demand has been crazy. We received 150 orders in the first 24 hours alone and it’s not stopped since! Most local businesses have now ordered the customised masks, including restaurants, pubs, butchers, builders, and hairdressers. Not just logos – we’ve also had orders for rainbows, smiley faces and even football club emblems.

“We feel that as we are nearing the end of lockdown the need for facemasks is vital in keeping ourselves healthy therefore hopefully taking the strain off the NHS.

Henley House, Henley Printing, Molly Olly's Wishes, Ella Richards
Tom Cross

Ste, who is being supported in his efforts by his girlfriend Sally James, added: “Having been friends for years, we have helped each other out business wise with uniform making and helping each other source materials and suppliers, so decided to collaborate on this new venture as we are all out of work due to the coronavirus, this way helping both of our businesses to survive as well as helping the community to stay safe.”

Tom Cross took over the running of Henley House from his father Adrian recently, a few years after moving from Birmingham. The specialist High Street menswear and grooming business, has been flooded with orders from local firms, all attracted to the customised concept.

And he wasted no time in bringing his old St Mary’s Primary School friend – and fellow businessman – Ste – on board.

“It’s been really tough. I needed to come up with an idea of something to keep the business afloat because our main source of revenue, weddings, have all been postponed. I also have a barber’s in the shop as part of the business and we have no idea how long it’s going to be before that is allowed to carry on either,” said Tom.

“I woke up one Sunday morning and thought, it would be a great idea to add logos, so reached out to Ste to see if he wanted to get involved, and it went from there.”

He added: “I think the time is exactly right for this sort of thing as I believe it will soon be mandatory for everyone to wear them outside.”

Both men have pledged a donation to Warwick-based charity Molly Olly’s Wishes which supports children with terminal or life-limiting illness and which recently worked with a family in the Henley community.

The charity gifted Henley teenager Ella Richards, who was last year diagnosed with cancer, with a £500 Bullring shopping voucher.


Henley House, Henley Printing, Molly Olly's Wishes, Ella Richards
Ella Richards during her treatment.

Sixteen-year-old Ella, who is shielding due to the pandemic, says the shopping sprees helped her stay positive throughout her gruelling treatment journey as she was able to purchase false eyelashes and eyebrow products to help her overcome the hair loss – as well as indulging in her favourite jewellery at Pandora.

“Molly Olly’s were there for me at the most difficult time in my life. Their gift gave me something to look forward to on the most difficult days of my treatment and helped keep me positive,” said Ella.

“I am so happy that local businesses are supporting a charity that is so close to my heart and the face masks they are making could help make a real difference to vulnerable and shielding people and families like ourselves.”

The charity was established in 2011 following the death of Rachel and Tim Ollerenshaw’s eight-year-old daughter Molly from a rare kidney cancer.

It works to support children with terminal or life-limiting illnesses and their families and help with their emotional wellbeing as well as grant wishes and donate therapeutic toys and books to both children directly and to hospitals throughout the UK.

Mascot of the charity is a 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 40 hospitals, along with a book from the charity’s exclusive Olly The Brave series.

Molly Olly's Wishes
Rachel Ollerenshaw

Rachel Ollerenshaw said: “Molly Olly’s Wishes are very grateful to the teams at Henley House and Henley Printing for their support at what is a time of particular need for the charity which has been severely impacted by COVID-19.

“We are so grateful to people for still thinking about us during what are such challenging times for their own businesses – and look forward to receiving our branded Molly Olly masks.”

Further information about Molly Olly’s Wishes or how to donate can be found at:

Masks can be ordered by visiting and Henley Printing at: